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Shanks Chemical Services fined £66,000 for fire

Shanks Chemical Services has been fined a total of £66,000 for offences that resulted in a major fire causing two firemen to be hospitalised.

The company pleaded guilty at Hartlepool Magistrate’s Court to two Environment Agency (EA) charges of accepting waste not allowed under their licence and storing it in an inappropriate manner at their Tofts Road West site in Hartlepool. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought a further charge of failing to ensure the health and safety of employees.

Burning drums of lithium had led to a violent explosion with the fire brigade ordering an emergency evacuation.

After a large amount of smoke was generated, five firemen were taken to hospital feeling unwell, with two of these being kept in isolation as a precaution due to breathing difficulties and uncertainty about the nature of the chemicals that were burning.

EA officer Martin Swainston said: “The sites management showed a disregard for their environmental responsibilities by accepting waste that was specifically excluded from their licence, and then by storing flammable material in a wholly inappropriate place.”

All residents in the Seaton Carew area had been advised to stay indoors and keep windows closed overnight, with a total of 12 fire engines and 60 fire fighters needed to deal with the incident.

Swainston added: This was an example of poor site management. Basic procedures were not followed, and this led to an incident that had serious implications, not just for the site, but for the surrounding area.”

The incident occurred due to the storage of eight 205 litre drums and four 160 litre drums of lithium/copper strip in an area intended for non-hazardous waste despite the company having their own guidance on the “catastrophic” consequences of accidents caused by them.

The company was fined £15,000 each for three charges and ordered to pay costs of £21,636, split between the two regulators, the EA and the HSE.

“I am delighted the courts have taken this case so seriously and hope this will reinforce the message to waste management companies that they cannot be complacent when it comes to the safety of people or the environment”, said Swainston.

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