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January 12, 2010

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Illegally stored aerosols posed huge fire risk

A Leicestershire haulage firm has been fined for illegally storing large quantities of aerosols.

Coalville Magistrates’ Court, sitting on 8 January, heard that AM Widdowson & Son Ltd had stored large amounts of aerosols, which contain liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), for around seven months. The firm began storing the chemical at its depot in Hilltop Industrial Estate site, Leicestershire after winning a contract to transport the products.

The HSE was notified in July 2008 that the company was storing far in excess of the legal limit of aerosol products. HSE inspectors visited the site and estimated that around 500 tonnes — 10 times the legal limit — were being stored at the site.

Inspector James Wright revealed that the firm failed to inform the regulator that it was storing more than the law allowed. He said: “The arrangements this company had in place for the storage of aerosol products fell well below what HSE would expect to find. It also failed to notify the us that it was operating a site which came under the the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH).”

A.M Widdowson & Son pleaded guilty to breaching reg.6(2) of COMAH, for failing to send notice that it  was storing large quantities of flammable substances, and s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 with costs of £4900.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and had cooperated with the HSE’s investigation. It quickly made arrangements for the aerosols to be transported to a suitable site for storage. The company has also reviewed its policies and procedures to ensure that its storage arrangements are in compliance with HSE guidelines.

Inspector Wright added: “On this occasion, with the amount of LPG being stored on site, there was a real risk of a major fire, which would have posed a threat to employees on site and those in the surrounding area. Where there are serious failures to implement suitable arrangements for managing the risks from LPG, HSE will not hesitate to prosecute.”  

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