Two in coma after blaze at cannabis factory

A Birmingham cannabis factory went up in flames on Sunday injuring two people.

The two-storey, semi-detached house was being used to grow the plants.

A total of three appliances were called to the property, in Ward End, at 9.15 am.

The two individuals rescued from the house are now in comas, according to the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service. Fire investigators stated that the biggest fire safety risks in cannabis factories was the unusually large amount of heat and electricity running through a property.

“The normal electricity metre in a house is bypassed so that electricity is not metered or regulated,” he said.

Firefighting in these properties can also be very dangerous, he said, because fire spread can be unpredictable.

“[Growers] may also have destroyed a building’s integrity by removing doors and putting holes in ceilings and walls so that cables and huge ventilation tubes can run through. They use the tubes to control odours from the plants.”

In the past year, there have been more than 50 cannabis factory fires in the West Midlands area alone.

A joint police and fire service investigation is ongoing.

M&S employee charged with arson after blaze at store

A Marks and Spencers employee has been charged with arson and criminal damage after allegedly setting fire to an Exeter branch of the retail chain.

Robin Woodard, 43, has been remanded in custody and is due to appear again at Exeter Magistrates Court on 24th March. It follows a fire on 26 February at a five-storey M&S, where clothing on the first floor was set alight in the early hours.

Fire crews used breathing apparatus and positive pressure ventilation fans to clear the smoke logged building. At least three appliances were called to deal with the incident after alarms sounded inside the building around 4 am. The store’s sprinkler systems were also activated.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, damage to the building, stock and adjacent H Samuel store, coupled with the resulting loss of trade, could run into millions of pounds. Exeter city centre manager, John Harvey, told the newspaper that the damage to the store was “extreme”.

However, M&S was due to reopen yesterday after being closed for a fortnight, according to local press, though the basement food hall will be closed until later this year.

Acid dissolved plumber’s PPE

A property maintenance company failed to provide a worker with adequate PPE or training prior to him receiving acid burns while unblocking a sin.

City Response Ltd was contracted to carry out maintenance work at properties owned by a housing association in Manchester. On 18 December 2009, it sent Neil Kelly, 52, to repair a blocked sink at a house in Heywood.

Mr Kelly used a plunger on the sink and then dismantled the pipework to check for a blockage. But this did not fix the problem so he poured sink unblocker fluid, which contained a high concentration of sulphuric acid, down the plughole. He then turned on the tap, and when the water mixed with the chemical, it caused an exothermic explosion. The acid hit the ceiling and rained down on him, burning through his paper overalls. He suffered burns to his face, chest and arms and was unable to return to work for two months owing to his injuries.

Mr Kelly should have been provided with PVC acid-resistant clothing. It was also explained that he hadn’t been trained how to use the acid and that only a small amount of water should have been added to the chemical in order to prevent it from reacting. She said: “City Response allowed one of its employees to use dangerous chemicals without anyone making sure he was working safely. As a result, he suffered severe acid burns to his face and body.

“The company should have made sure he used appropriate protective clothing, instead of the paper overalls, which were dissolved by the acid. He should also have received training on using the chemical.

“Property maintenance firms must carry out regular checks on the work their employees are doing while they’re away from their normal base, especially if they’re expected to work with dangerous chemicals.”

City Response appeared at Trafford Magistrates’ Court on 3 March and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, for not adequately controlling the exposure of workers to hazardous chemicals. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £2965 in costs.

The firm mitigated that it had no previous convictions and said it has reviewed its safety controls. It has stopped using the acid and has provided its staff with adequate PPE and training.

Landlord pays £27,000 for breaches after tenants’ lucky escape

A landlord has been ordered to pay £20,000 in fines after a fire caused his tenants to flee the property for their lives.

Hitesh Mashru pleaded guilty to four breaches of the Fire Safety Order last week (28 February) at Watford Magistrates Court.

He was also ordered to pay £7,394.58 in costs for the breaches, which took place at 39 High Street, Bushey.

On 24 April last year, six tenants were forced to escape the upstairs flats during an electrical fire which took 50 firefighters to extinguish. Investigations found the blaze was started by faulty electrics and that it was not connected with a Thai restaurant on the ground floor of the property.

Fire safety officers from Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service found that the premises had a number of failures which put lives at risk including no fire detection or fire alarm, no fire doors, no emergency lighting and storage on escape routes.

Neither had Mr Mashru carried out a fire risk assessment, as required by the FSO.

Hertfordshire’s fire cheif, said: “Where breaches of fire legislation are considered so serious that there is a risk of death or serious injury to people we can consider prosecution.

“In this case, six people were extremely lucky to escape with their lives and we strongly urge that all landlords make sure their premises are safe from fire and are compliant with fire law.

“With the 2012 Olympics approaching and the ever increasing numbers of shared accommodation and bed and breakfast type accommodation, the responsible person must consider fire precautions for the protection of life”.

Oscar winner on trial over Batman stunt death

Conway Wickliffe died while filming scenes for the Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

An Oscar-winning special effects expert is on trial for breaching health and safety regulations over the death of a stunt technician on a Surrey film set.

Christopher Corbould, 53, was charged following the death of Conway Wickliffe, 41, who died on the set of The Dark Knight, in Longcross, near Chertsey, in September 2007.

The trial of Mr Corbould, of Bookham, Surrey, is at Guildford Crown Court.

He has been charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Mr Wickliffe, a father-of-two, had been leaning out of a car while operating a camera when the vehicle failed to negotiate a bend and hit a tree during the making of the Batman film, an inquest heard.

He suffered severe head injuries in the crash at the test track in Longcross. The inquest hearing in Woking, in November 2008, ruled his death was an accident. Mr Corbould won an Academy Award at this year’s Oscars for his work on the film, Inception.

False fire alarm at BBC disrupts live TV broadcast

A cup of tea and fake tan spray have been identified as the root causes of two false fire alarms in TV studios over as many weeks.

The One Show, at BBC’s Media Village in White City, went off air when a fire alarm sounded on 23 February.

Presenters, Alex Jones and Matt Baker were interviewing actress Tamsin Grieg at the time, as seen in this picture posted on the show’s Twitter page.

A lightheart disclaimer stated that the photo was taken after the building was cleared for re-entry. The show was replaced by back up footage of Simple Suppers.

A subsequent investigation found that the alarm was caused by somebody warming their tea up in a microwave. Twittering after the event, Ms Jones wrote: “We’re all safe and well!!! Somebody was warming their tea up and the microwave set off the fire alarm! That’s live telly for you!”

Last week, rehearsals for ITV’s Dancing on Ice, at Shepperton Studios in Middlesex, were interrupted due to another false alarm and the studio was evacuated. Fake tan fumes generated by the celebrity skaters proved too much for the fire alarm system.

Independent school fined after groundsmen suffer electrical burns

The King’s School in Ely has been prosecuted after three of its employees suffered electrical burns while setting up a rugby post in one of the school’s sports fields.

The court heard four groundsmen were working to put a rugby post into the ground in the Brand Field at King’s School, Ely, Cambridgeshire. The post came into contact with a live 33,000 volt overhead power line and the men received electrical injuries. Trevor Mott from Littleport needed skin grafts and colleagues, Ivor Lloyd, also from Littleport and Chris Young from Haddenham, suffered burns. All men had to take time off work to recuperate.

The King’s School pleaded guilty to breaching Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 4(3) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

The school was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,274.40 in costs at Ely Magistrates’ Court.

After the hearing an HSE Inspector said:
“Three men suffered some awful injuries that could have easily been avoided if the King’s School had better management of health and safety in place to protect their workforce. A fourth man was lucky not to have been injured. “Employers must carry out sufficient risk assessments before such work is carried out and provide supervision and relevant training to ensure the safety of their staff and contractors.”

Manslaughter charges to be brought against fire-service bosses

Three fire-service managers are to face manslaughter charges in relation to the deaths of four fire-fighters in a warehouse blaze in 2007, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced today (28 February).

Paul Simmons, Adrian Ashley and Timothy Woodward, of the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, will appear before Leamington magistrates on 1 April to answer charges that they were grossly negligent in sending colleagues Ian Reid, John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley into the burning building in Atherstone-on-Stour on 2 November 2007. The four men lost their lives in the blaze, which broke out in a vegetable store at the premises of Wealmoor (Atherstone).

On the day, Paul Simmons and Adrian Ashley were watch managers, and Timothy Woodward was station manager but, according to the CPS, all three acted as incident commanders “before, during and after their colleagues were sent into the burning building”.

Michael Gregory, reviewing lawyer in the CPS Special Crime Division, added: “In that role they were responsible for making the operational decisions while their colleagues tried to put out the fire.”

The incident was the subject of a thorough investigation by the Warwickshire Police and the HSE, on the basis of whose findings the CPS decided there was sufficient evidence, and that it was in the public interest, to charge the three men with manslaughter by gross negligence.

It also found that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction against Warwickshire County Council for failing to protect the health and safety of employees. The council will therefore face a charge under section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, also brought by the CPS.

The decision to prosecute was welcomed by Warwickshire Police, which said: “This has been a long and complex investigation and the CPS has reviewed it with due diligence before making its decision. The judicial process has now begun and we must await the outcome.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the four fire-fighters who died.”

Ian Reid died in hospital on 2 November 2007. The bodies of John Averis, Ashley Stephens and Darren Yates-Badley were recovered at the scene of the fire four days later.

Following the incident, the HSE served an Improvement Notice on Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service, giving it four months to improve the way information on hazards in buildings and the location of water supply is provided at incidents.

The CPS has not received any evidence from the Police relating to anyone suspected of deliberately starting the fire.