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Oldbury alcohol blaze firm bosses facing £2.5m fine

Sandwell | News | Published:

Bosses of an alcohol factory in Oldbury which burst into flames are facing a fine of up to £2.5 million for breaching health and safety regulations.

Around 70 firefighters were drafted in to tackle the devastating blaze at Alcohols Ltd in Crosswells Road, Langley in November 2012.

Huge plumes of smoke and fireballs could be seen for miles and 16 homes were left uninhabitable after the fire spread to nearby properties.

Adam Wallis, managing director of Alcohols Ltd, appeared at Sandwell Magistrates' Court on Tuesday when he pleaded guilty, on behalf of the company, to two charges relating to the breach of health and safety regulations.

Mr Nathan Cook, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said the company could now be facing a fine of up to £2.5 million when it is sentenced next month.

He said the company had fallen short of the health and safety standards required.

He told the court: "This is a prosecution that arises out of a investigation following an explosion and fire that occurred in 2012.

"Alcohols Ltd has two main activities - the distillation of spirits and packing of industrial solvents.

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A firefighter surveys the damage
A firefighter surveys the damage
Alcohols Ltd managing director Adam Wallis

"We are dealing with the matter of industrial solvents for the explosion, and the company needs to minimise any risk that could happen and all potential causes of ignition.

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"Ethyl acetate was drawn from bulk tankers and being moved into smaller ones.

"They were plastic and the industry guidance is that you use metal which in this case was not being done.

"They were avoiding industry guidelines.

"This was not a one-off accident but it had been ongoing for some time.

"There were risk assessments in place but from CCTV it was clear that there were flaws in the practice."

The case was referred to Wolverhampton Crown Court for sentencing on April 26.

Homes were evacuated when flames started to take hold at the factory, in Crosswells Road, Langley, on November 26, 2012 and families were sent to an emergency centre set up at Moat Farm Junior School before spending the night with relatives or at hotels.

One of the 15 workers at the site suffered burns and was referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for treatment at the time.

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