Birmingham & Black Country

Langley Green distillery blaze leads to £270,000 fine

Langley distillery Image copyright HSE
Image caption People reported seeing thick black smoke from several miles away

A company has been fined £270,000 following a distillery fire that melted lamp-posts and saw residents evacuated.

More than 100 firefighters were sent to the blaze at Alcohols Ltd, Crosswells Road, Langley Green, in November 2012.

Eyewitnesses described hearing explosions and a man in his 20s required hospital treatment for burns.

Alcohols Ltd, based in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court to admit two breaches of the Health and Safety Act.

The company was also ordered to pay £25,009 costs.

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the fire was most likely caused by a discharge of static electricity while highly flammable ethyl acetate was being transferred from a storage tank into a container.

It criticised the maintenance of pipework and valves and said there was a "failure" to inspect equipment or check how it was being used.

The court heard one employee sustained 20% burns to his hands, head and neck in the incident.

Risk of serious harm

People reported seeing thick black smoke from several miles away, including from the M5, and the fire even led to London Midland suspending train services between Snow Hill and Stourbridge.

HSE inspector Kieran Jones warned "poor management" of volatile liquids can lead to "catastrophic results".

He said: "Companies that fail to ensure the integrity of their safety critical equipment place their employees, members of the public, emergency services and their entire livelihood at risk of serious harm."

In a statement, Alcohols Ltd said it "acknowledges and accepts" the fine.

"Since the incident we have conducted a thorough review of all our systems, cooperated fully and openly with the investigatory bodies and done our utmost to reassure local residents and the community," it said.

"The safety and well being of our employees and the public remain our foremost concern."

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