"The drill was a success and lessons were learned on both sides."
Dr Mark Pennington
A practice chemical incident drill has taken place next to a new housing development in Cannock.
The ‘emergency drill’ was organised and carried out by waste management company Axil Integrated Services and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. It was planned more than six months ago but most of the Axil staff were unaware it was happening in a bid to simulate a ‘real life drill scenario’. The actual drill saw 12 people take part, with some wearing gas-tight hazardous material suits, and lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
The drill took place close to the housing development on Walkmill Lane - one that hit the headlines earlier this year amid fears houses were too close to Axil’s Cannock premises, which handles toxic and hazardous waste.
The exercise involved the rescue of a mannequin who had theoretically been working in an area where flammable materials were being stored and was found lying on the floor, presumably overcome by fumes. The ‘Site Manager’ had gone to investigate, wearing the correct respiratory equipment, and also became a ‘casualty’. Fire crews arrived on site and to investigate and rescue the ‘casualties’, whilst Axil staff cleared the area to avoid further ‘casualties’. Fire crews identified a container that was leaking (water was used during the exercise) and dealt with it accordingly. After this, a post-incident debrief took place. The drill was also observed and feedback and recommendations given to Axil Integrated Services and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Andy Read, Crew Manager at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It was excellent to work alongside Axil Integrated Services to deliver a specific training exercise which will help us both to review and improve procedures involving the leakage of chemicals.
“The main involvement from ourselves is to save and protect life which can be achieved by liaising with onsite staff and gaining specialist knowledge which we then use to safely bring the incident to a competent conclusion. We achieved this with only minimal learning objectives.”
Dr Mark Pennington, Head of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) at Axil Integrated Services Ltd, added: “Incident exercises like this are normal practice in an industrial setting and there is no reason for the public to panic. We just felt it was more important than ever to carry one out after new homes were built just four metres from our site. We wanted to ensure that both Axil staff and the emergency services are prepared for any potential chemical spill and to aid the understanding of the layout of the site, which accepts a large range of materials with various hazards.
“The drill was a success and lessons were learned on both sides. It also provided Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service with a chance to practice putting on the gas tight hazardous material suits, which can be pretty complex, and highlighted some of the challenges when wearing these, including being able to communicate with colleagues.
“It is worth pointing out that whilst it is less common to conduct spillage drills, particularly when they involve two fire crews, it is good practice for hazardous waste operators to do them so we can all learn how to manage any potential emergency situation. It is obviously better to learn in a theoretic situation and be prepared for a real incident. This was a positive exercise which went well and displayed some excellent teamwork. We are grateful to Andy and his team for their assistance.”