Content category: Directors liability insurance
A national dairy farm has been sentenced following a major explosion at its cheese factory in Cumbria, which put the lives of its workforce at risk.
The boiler house at Aspatria Creamery - located on Station Road in Aspatria - was partially destroyed when the incident took place in July 2010, throwing debris more than 100 metres across the facility.
Despite the fact the force of the blast lifted the roof off the building and blew out part of two walls on the ground floor, no one was injured as a result.
However, an investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered a blocked vent on the calorifier - a water heating and storage system - that had caused the machinery to explode.
A hearing at Carlisle Magistrates' Court found the equipment could retain up to 9,000 litres of water and was utilised to produce hot water for washing down the dairy at the end of a working day.
Engineers located at the facility had been manually controlling the steam supply valve to the calorifier after an automatic control broke down, while the HSE investigation found a vent - which should have allowed water to escape - had become completely blocked with calcium carbonate.
The compound, which looked to have been inside the machine for a number of years, resulted in the pressure inside the tank increasing continuously - as the temperature of the water reached almost 150 degrees C before eventually leading to an explosion.
As a result, the First Milk Cheese company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £36,064 in legal costs after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety regulations.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Griffiths said: "I hope this prosecution will act as a warning to any other company that uses hot water and steam systems to make sure they are properly maintained so that incidents like this don't happen in the future."