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    MAJOR FM FIRM FAILED TO MAINTAIN BACK-UP POWER

    Power loss at laboratory site created potential risk from biological agents

    A facilities management contractor has been fined after multiple safety failings at a laboratory site for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge.

    Interserve Facilities Management Ltd was contracted to maintain many of the mechanical and electrical systems required for containment and control of high hazard biological agents in microbiological containment laboratories. The pathogens handled in the lab can pose a serious risk to human health and the environment.

    Hove Crown Court heard how, on Sunday 21 September 2014, mains power was lost at the site. Twelve generators were in place to supply emergency power to the site. However, two generators failed to operate and two started but subsequently failed in operation, one of which also caught fire.

    The emergency system was triggered causing the Fire and Rescue Service to attend the site. Power was fully restored later that day.

    The Court was told that as a result of the emergency generator failures all power was lost to a number of high containment facilities for several hours, affecting the site safety systems.

    Generators not maintained effectively

    HSE investigators found a number of failings in relation to the maintenance activities undertaken on standby generators that could have resulted in employees being exposed to a risk of harm from biological agents.

    • Interserve (Facilities Management) Ltd – of Waterloo Road, London, pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and have been fined £93,600 and ordered to pay £32,056 costs.

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE Intervention Programme Manager and lead investigator in the case, Dr Keith Stephenson said:

    “Fortunately, the consequences of the multiple generator failures were significantly reduced by the timing of the incident, both in terms of the day of the week and the laboratory studies being undertaken at that time.

    Had the incident happened on a different day or when different studies were being undertaken, staff and the nearby environment could have been exposed to high hazard biological agents with serious consequences.”

     

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