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Baseefa Ltd

Cumbria cheese factory faces large fine for explosion

28 August 2012

A dairy firm has been fined £20,000 following a major explosion at its cheese factory in Cumbria. The owner of the Aspatria Creamery, First Milk Cheese Company Ltd, appeared at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court on 15 August and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.15(2) of the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000, for failing to ensure a valve in a boiler house was free of obstructions.

The cheese plant explosion partially destroyed the boiler room and lifted the roof off the building
The cheese plant explosion partially destroyed the boiler room and lifted the roof off the building

In addition to the fine, the company was ordered to pay £36,064 in costs.

The obstructed valve caused an explosion which partially destroyed the boiler room and lifted the roof off the building on 29 July 2010. Debris was thrown more than 100 metres across the site. Nobody was injured during the incident.

An investigation by the HSE determined that a blocked vent on a water heating system, known as a calorifier, had caused the tank to explode. The calorifier could hold 9000 litres of water and was used to produce hot water for washing the dairy.

Maintenance engineers at the site had been manually controlling the calorifier’s steam-supply valve, as the automatic control had broken. The vent pipe on the tank had become blocked due to a build up of calcium carbonate, which prevented the water from escaping when it became too hot. The pressure inside the tank continued to rise and the water temperature reached approximately 150OC before the tank exploded.

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."




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