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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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First Milk fined after explosion at Cumbrian cheese factory

Dairy firm First Milk has been ordered to pay more than £56,000 after an explosion at its cheese factory in Aspatria.

Aspatria cremaery explosion photo
The wrecked boiler house

The boiler house at the Station Road plant was badly damaged in the July 29, 2010 blast, which threw debris more than 100 metres across the site.

No one was injured despite the explosion lifting the roof off the building and blowing out part of two ground floor walls.

The First Milk Cheese Company Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive today after an investigation found a blocked vent on the calorifier – a water heating and storage system – had caused it to explode.

Carlisle magistrates heard the calorifier could hold up to 9,000 litres of water and was used to produce hot water for washing down the dairy.

Maintenance engineers had been manually controlling the steam supply valve to the calorifier after the automatic control broke down.

The HSE investigation found the vent pipe on the tank, which should have allowed water to escape if it became too hot, had become blocked with calcium carbonate, possibly over several years. This meant the pressure inside the tank continued to rise, with the water's temperature reaching almost 150 degrees Celsius before it eventually caused an explosion.

First Milk admitted breaching the Pressure Systems Safety Regulations 2000 by failing to ensure the vent pipe was kept clear.

The company, of Pickhill Lane, Wrexham, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £36,064 prosecution costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Griffiths said it was "extremely fortunate" that no one had been seriously hurt or killed.

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