Man hospitalised after battery recycling plant explosion

A 26-year-old-man has been hospitalised after sustaining multiple injuries following an explosion and subsequent fire at G&P Batteries in Darlaston, near Walsall, on Tuesday (23 May).

Man hospitalised after battery recycling plant explosion
A number of used lithium batteries packaged for onward delivery “unexpectedly and spontaneously combusted”, according to a G&P Batteries spokesperson, at around 1.45pm, setting off a fire that spread through the plant where four tonnes of batteries were stored.

West Midlands Fire Service sent 30 firefighters to tackle the blaze while West Midlands Ambulance Service dispatched paramedics to the scene, who arrived within seven minutes, along with an emergency doctor and an NHS hazardous area response team. Fire crews confirmed that the blaze had been fully extinguished by Wednesday morning.

The man injured was a G&P Batteries employee who was working close to the explosion. An ambulance spokesperson said: “While firefighters brought the blaze under control, ambulance staff dealt with a 26-year-old man who had suffered multiple wounds across his body, head and face, as well as both arms and legs. He also had burns on both hands.

“Staff dressed his wounds and stabilised his condition before taking him to the major trauma centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham for further assessment and treatment. There were no other patients.”

The G&P Batteries spokesperson explained how the fire spread and was then contained: “The intense heat from the fire consequently ignited other batteries awaiting despatch for recycling. The fire was successfully contained by the bespoke infrastructure G&P Batteries employs to handle these hazardous materials. Emergency Services attended and extinguished the fire. 

”Regrettably a member of the G&P Batteries staff, who was working close by, suffered minor injuries. He is expected to make a full recovery and return to work in the next few days.”

Safety a priority

Having experienced two fires back in 2014, G&P Batteries has developed a system for dealing swiftly with incidents of this type in the event that mitigation measures fail.

Man hospitalised after battery recycling plant explosion
G&P Batteries Managing Director Greg Clemenston, stated: “Our first priority was the safety of our staff and to ensure no harm to the environment. I was delighted with the response of our teams and that of the emergency services. We are pleased that our injured colleague is recovering well. Working in deep collaboration with the local emergency services we have well-rehearsed procedures for dealing with these types of incidents. 

“We must all remember that these are the same batteries (lithium batteries) that people are relying upon every day to power mobile phones, computers and cars and the risk of combustion in certain circumstances is well known and documented.

”This risk is magnified when you are dealing with waste products which in some cases may have been damaged.”

Clemenston said that G&P have worked with battery manufacturers, equipment suppliers and waste collection schemes to develop “robust systems and criteria” to manage risks associated with damaged and defective batteries, and that safety at the company’s site is its “main priority”.

He concluded:  “We are thankful that the systems and processes that we have in place to protect staff and equipment prevented what could have been a more significant incident. We are grateful to the crews that attended from West Midland Fire Service and pleased that the incident commander praised both the company’s and staff’s reactions to the incident and efforts to minimise impact.”

The explosion at the Darlaston site follows on the heels of a similar explosion in the market town of Raunds, East Northamptonshire, last month (14 March), after a council recycling truck caught fire following an explosion in the back of the truck caused by the combustion of a nickel-cadium battery.

East Northamptonshire Council sent out a warning to residents to take due care and precaution when recycling batteries, since they contain flammable chemicals and cannot be disposed of in waste or recycling bins. They must be taken to a specialised battery disposal point.

Related Articles