Roofer Fined £21 Million

A South Wales roofing firm is negotiating with claimants after being ordered to pay more than £21 million in damages for its part in a fire that devastated a West Midlands factory.

The High Court in London heard on 25 February that Bridgend roofer Central Roofing (South Wales) had been contracted to refurbish the roof of a factory near Wolverhampton operated by copper tube manufacturer Mueller Europe.

The contractor had erected a suspended "birdcage" scaffold to work on the roof, which was boarded and sheeted with combustible materials and enclosed two suspended gas-powered radiant heaters, used to heat the factory.

When the heaters were turned on in the early morning of 9 November 2008, they set the flammable scaffold alight, sparking a huge fire that caused part of the roof to collapse and triggered massive damage to the fabric and contents of the factory.

BBC News reported that the judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, said the heaters were an "obvious fire hazard" that should have been picked up.

He said that although Mueller should have made sure the enclosed heaters were switched off, Central Roofing bore the primary responsibility to carry out the work safely and to point out the obvious hazard. He noted that there had been three previous incidents when heaters were switched on when they should not have been.

The judge said: "Central continued to take no steps to carry out the works safely when they knew that Mueller was not routinely isolating [the heaters] and the failure to isolate had already caused near misses". He ruled Central liable to pay Mueller a total of £21,357,889 in compensation for the damage to the factory, its contents, machinery, and equipment and for the interruption of its business. Source: IFSEC

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