The Fire and Explosions at B&R Hauliers, Salford. 25th September 1982

Accident summary

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.

Failings in technical measures

  • A major contributing factor to this incident was the failure to adopt rigours segregation in the storage of various hazardous chemicals within the warehouse. In particular, the management not aware of guidelines for the storage of sodium chlorate.
  • Segregation of Hazardous Materials: Warehouse storage, incompatible substances
  • The management had received insufficient information from the owners of the chemicals on whose behalf they were being stored. Also, the warehouse had no control regarding the quantities or type of chemicals delivered for storage.
  • Raw Materials Control / Sampling: safety management systems
  • Suppliers of hazardous materials should pay close attention to how their goods will be stored and handled and provide all the information necessary to ensure that those who store or handle their materials can do so in a safe manner.
  • Raw Materials Control / Sampling: safety management systems
  • The rapid spread of the fire quickly engulfed hazardous materials. Adequate precautions must be taken so that in the event of a fire the risk of its spreading to hazardous materials is prevented.
  • Active / Passive Fire Protection: water deluge adequate coverage
  • A major contributor to this incident was the involvement of vandals. Risks that are reasonably foreseeable from acts of vandalism and arson should be considered in order to protect premises and materials in store.
  • Site Security: trespass/access detection
  • Warning Signs: designated flammable zones, human factors


Health and Safety Executive, 'The fire and explosion at B&R Hauliers, Salford, 25th September 1982', ISBN 1 11 883702 8, 1982.

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