A Lesson In Learning From Your Mistakes - Fire Safety Case Law

A judge recently concluded that a £7 million bakery fire could have been prevented if the client and its suppliers had responded more effectively to an earlier incident. What happened?

New Equipment

United Central Bakeries Ltd (UCB) owned a factory in Bathgate from where it manufactured naan bread. In June 2003 it commissioned Spooner Industries Ltd (S) to design and build a new helical conveyor system to receive bread from the oven. S determined that the most suitable material to use for the belt of the “heliveyor” would be one made of a thermoplastic known as POM. The POM belt, which is widely used in bakeries, was purchased from Forbo Siegling (UK) Ltd (F).

Signs of trouble

In December 2003 parts of the belt caught fire. Luckily staff were able to extinguish it with water hoses but there was significant damage. Naturally, the management was concerned. Both S and F took part in the investigation, sending representatives to the site to understand the reasons for the blaze.

In the detail

After repeated requests by the client, F sent the data sheet for the POM belting. It arrived with a covering note reassuring UCB that a burning naan bread was very unlikely to cause the POM belt to catch fire – they suspected something else. However, although UCB managers had pressed F for the information, they didn’t read the detail. Had they done so they would have noted the material’s melting point at 164°C to 168°C, and realised that an oil-coated and scorched product leaving a 400°C oven might be incompatible.

For the full information bulletin, please click here...