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Chinese lanterns passing safely in the night?

Category: Health & Safety | Bryan Richards Twitter | Published on: Jul 29, 2013 | Updated: Dec 12, 2016 Read more: Health & Safety

Chinese lantern Health and SafetyAt the beginning of this month 200 fire fighters attended a fire at the Jayplas plastic recycling depot at Smethwick in the west Midlands. The fire was caused by a Chinese lantern (BBC News). Six million pounds worth of damage was caused and it was lucky that were no significant injuries or loss of life.

The Government rejected a ban of the Lanterns, but some stores have already withdrawn the lanterns from sale.

A week later, as I drove into my drive one evening, I saw one of these lanterns floating over my house. It got me thinking, what were the chances of that? More importantly, what is the likelihood of a repeat of a fire like the Smethwick fire, with more serious consequences?

This relates to my Blog from April Last Year Foreseeing Workplace Risks without a Crystal Ball. If these Chinese Lanterns are widely used, should companies like Jayplas foresee the risk and put control measures in place? Before this fire, it would seem unnecessary to employ a night watchman looking out for lanterns through the night, but the cost of employing such a person is insignificant when considering the cost of recovering from the damage. I am sure similar businesses will have been considering such measures.

But how far do you go? I certainly do not like to see health and safety rules stopping activities unnecessarily, but in this case a Government ban would have eliminated the hazard. As the fire fighters did a great job in controlling the fire and there were no fatalities, a high risk was not foreseen by the Government, but if there is another fire with fatalities, a ban would be inevitable.

So in managing potential health and safety and fire risks in the workplace do we need to wait for a serious injury fatality before we take action? Of course not, but in emergency response planning businesses need to able to foresee the serious consequences of an event. Failure to do so could leave you open to criminal and civil action.

It looks like these lanterns will continue to pass in the night, hopefully safely. If not, will the Government, and their advisors, be held to account?

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Bryan Richards 29th July 2013

Arinite Ltd, Warnford Court, 29 Throgmorton Street, London EC2N 2AT

 
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