Uncontrolled Fire results in company fine

Vertellus Specialties UK Limited, of St Anns Wharf, Newcastle upon Tyne, has been fined after an uncontrolled fire at the company’s Seal Sands premises in Middlesbrough in the early hours of 14 May 2014.

Teesside Crown Court heard 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.  No one was injured as a result of this fire, but police declared a major emergency and the road was closed for several hours.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (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 has pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999.

The company has been fined £135,000 and ordered to pay costs of £37,653.12.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Britton 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.”