At approximately 23:00 hours on the 25th September 1982 a major fire broke out in a warehouse used for storing 2,000 tonnes of chemicals including 25 tonnes of sodium chlorate. The fire quickly spread within the warehouse and consumed the sodium chlorate, which violently exploded. The explosion destroyed the warehouse and also caused minor damage to nearby residential property. Several hundred persons were evacuated and 60 received hospital treatment.
The investigation found evidence that intruders started the fire. The speed at which the fire spread was attributed to the presence of a flammable atmosphere.
It was recognised that vandalism was a major contributing factor in this incident. However, the investigation identified that the risks could have been significantly reduced if the sodium chlorate had been stored in the recommended manner. No areas within the warehouse were reserved for either a particular product or customer and there was no separation of chemicals from other goods.
The warehouse had no direct control on the level of chemicals delivered to the site therefore the quantity and type of chemical stored could substantially change.
Records detailing the storage of chemicals and other goods within the warehouse were destroyed in the fire.
Health and Safety Executive, ‘The fire and explosion at B&R Hauliers, Salford, 25th September 1982’, ISBN 1 11 883702 8, 1982.