Young worker engulfed in flames in distillery blaze

A 21-year-old employee was severely burnt in a fire that destroyed a distillery warehouse in November 2012.

The employee sustained twenty percent burns to his head, neck and hands after he was engulfed in flames when ethyl acetate – a highly flammable liquid – was being transfered from a bulk storage tank into an intermediate bulk container.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that the most likely source of ignition was a discharge of static electricity generated by the transfer of the liquid.

The fire, which happened at the Alcohol Limited distillery in Oldbury, West Midlands,, destroyed the warehouse and caused damaged to nearby cars and houses.

West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service was called to bring the fire under control.

The HSE investigation found that there was poor maintenance of pipework and associated valves, and a failure to competently inspect the equipment or monitor the systems of work.

Alcohols Limited, of Charringtons House, The Causeway, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,009.

After the hearing HSE inspector Kieron Jones 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.

“Poor management of highly flammable liquids can have catastrophic results both for individuals and businesses.”