Warnings over fire safety at Blackpool laundry firm to be investigated

Fire at Elite Linen, Ball Street, South Shore
Fire at Elite Linen, Ball Street, South Shore

Warnings over fire safety risks at a business which burned down will be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive, it has emerged.

A report that allegedly highlighted an ‘extremely high’ risk of fire at Elite Linen, in South Shore, to bosses is to form part of the regulator’s investigation into last month’s blaze.

Elite Linen, on Ball Street, was badly damaged by the fire

Elite Linen, on Ball Street, was badly damaged by the fire

Weeks after the industrial laundry firm was decimated in a fierce inferno, a document focusing on the business’s boiler plant was sent anonymously to The Gazette’s offices.

Purportedly authored by safety expert Derry Carr, it concluded an inspector from the HSE ‘would (in my opinion) issue a prohibition notice to this site’ and revealed a number of alleged failings, including:

• The gas supply to an industrial boiler following a ‘torturous path’, with pipes propped up with bricks

• A wooden box built around a burner that ‘significantly increased the fire risk’

The premises of Elite Linen in Ball Street, South Shore, has been partially demolished

The premises of Elite Linen in Ball Street, South Shore, has been partially demolished

• The same enclosure posing a carbon monoxide risk ‘in an area where there is a high concentration of residential housing’

• A gas booster with ‘little to no ventilation’, which could have caused a ‘fire with dire consequences’

• Ventilation for the boilerhouse being ‘totally inadequate’.

“To categorise the present status would be to call the operation an unacceptable high risk,” the report said.

“Concerns were immediately raised with the owner/operator.”

The operations was ‘unsafe and outside several legal requirements’ it added.

Boiler manufacturer Cochran, whose logo features on the front page of the report, declined to comment when questioned by The Gazette about when the report was written and whether the HSE was informed. The authenticity of the document, which said Cochran was providing Elite Linen with service support for its large boiler, was not called into question.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said the government watchdog had ‘no record’ of receiving any such report before yesterday, but added: “Now we are aware of it, we will be making further enquiries.”

She said the factory, in Ball Street, was last visited by an inspector on Thursday, November 10, last year and a ‘number of contraventions of health and safety legislation (were) brought to the company’s attention’. Bosses were also served with an improvement notice, since complied with, for a failure to prevent falls from height, official records showed.

The report, which was also sent to at least one business close to Elite, said a wooden ‘acoustic’ box was built around the burner after neighbours complained about the noise.

“The fire risk of this type of construction is extremely high and its removal is strongly recommended.”

A spokesman for Blackpool Council confirmed a noise complaint had been received.

It is unknown what action the company took to remedy the problems allegedly uncovered by Mr Carr prior to last month’s fire.

Forty firefighters were called to the site at around 7.15pm on Wednesday, June 14. Around 30 homes were evacuated. Firefighters have yet to discover the cause of the blaze.

Nobody at Elite Linen could be reached for a comment. Attempts to reach Mr Carr also proved unsuccessful.