Chemical manufacturing company fined more than £10,000

A Chemical manufacturing company in Tameside has been fined more than £10,000 after pleading guilty to seven fire safety offences.

Atom Scientific Ltd was convicted under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for putting the lives of its workers at risk at its chemical manufacturing and biological testing premises in Audenshaw.

The company was fined £10,500 when it appeared before Tameside Magistrates' Court and ordered to pay Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) costs of £3,353.20 as well as a £15 victim surcharge.

The prosecution followed an inspection by a Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) Fire Protection Officer on 18th April 2012 at the company's premises at Arrow Trading Estate.

The site is a large two storey industrial unit with a dispatch and packing warehouse on the ground floor and offices and laboratories on the first floor.
During the inspection, a GMFRS officer found high quantities of flammable, hazardous and toxic chemicals in the ground floor warehouse, some of which are potentially explosive.
The office and laboratories on the first floor were accessed by a single staircase designed to be a fire escape route, which had a fire exit door on the ground floor.
The officer found that the fire doors between the warehouse and the corridor had a broken self-closing device and would not have stopped smoke, heat and fire breaking out onto the stairs and escape corridor.

The company was storing chemicals on the escape route which could have caused a fire to spread rapidly and the fire exit door was locked inside and blocked, with a closed roller shutter on the outside. This meant the only way out of the building for anyone on the first floor was through the warehouse - the most likely source of a fire.
Workers would have needed to travel 40 metres to get out of the building in a fire, which is unacceptable as the premises would quickly fill with smoke.
There was a fire alarm fitted in the building but it didn't work, so if a fire had broken out on the ground floor, there would have been no way of people working in the offices or laboratory to be warned in order to escape quickly before the fire could develop and spread.

One of the company's directors, Peter Keenan, admitted later that the door had been locked and the alarm not working since the company moved into the unit in January 2011.
The company produced a fire risk assessment to the officer dated 17th April, which had no reference to the problems identified. It was later admitted that this had been completed on the day of the inspection.

Staff working in the premises had no formal training about what to do if a fire occurred or how to evacuate the premises safely. The risk assessment stated that there were 12 employees but there could be up to 25 people in the building at any one time.

Prosecuting for GMFRA, Warren Spencer said: The fire service was concerned about the safety of people on the first floor. If a fire broke out in the warehouse smoke, flames and heat would trap people upstairs and their only way out would be through the fire. The company had clearly not given any thought to a fire occurring in the warehouse. It was aware the fire alarm had not been operative since January 2011 but did nothing to rectify it.

Fining the company £1,500 for each offence, the Chair of the Bench Maria Bennett told the director present in court: Despite the mitigation put forward we are appalled at the extent of the company's breaches of the regulations. These are difficult times but products, premises and machinery can be replaced, human life cannot. You were responsible for the safety of employees and if a fire had occurred the impact on your workers' families cannot be described.

Peter O'Reilly, GMFRS' Director of Protection and Prevention Services, said: There is no excuse for the risks this company took with the safety of their employees. The director knew the alarm wasn't working and the fire door was locked but did nothing about it. The company trades in chemicals which carry warning labels yet they did not bother to do a risk assessment or even think how staff would get out in a fire. Fortunately, a fire did not occur because if it had, it's likely that there could have been tragic consequences to their failure to act. This fine should be a warning to businesses to think about the consequences of a fire and make sure their workers are safe.

Source: tamesideradio

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