Chemical company prosecuted after uncontrolled fire

The large fire occurred at the premises in the early hours of 14th May 2014. The fire involved large quantities of dangerous substances including Vitride, which led to this fire being declared a major incident. The Vitride was in drums and each one burst open causing a large fireball. While no-one was injured as a result of this fire, police declared a major emergency and the road was closed for several hours.

An investigation by the HSE, Environment Agency (EA) and Cleveland Fire Brigade (CFB) found that Vertellus failed to adequately maintain its equipment; and failed to ensure the equipment was suitable to control temperature or prevent ignition to an uncontrolled release.

Vertellus Specialties UK Limited of Newcastle upon Tyne, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999. The company was fined £135,000 and ordered to pay costs of £37,653.12.

Speaking after the hearing Stephen Britton, HSE Inspector said, “Luckily no one was injured as a result of this uncontrolled fire. Duty holders, particularly those who could be subject to a major incident, need to carry out robust planning to prevent and control major accidents. All engineering disciplines should be used, using outside assistance if needed. Here, there was a failure to recognise how a leak could develop into a larger problem.”

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