Probe launched into Wigan factory gas leak that hospitalised 10

Engineers were today assessing how poisonous gas came to leak at a Wigan factory, causing 230 workers to be evacuated and 10 to be hospitalised.


Engineers were today assessing how poisonous gas came to leak at a Wigan factory, causing 230 workers to be evacuated and 10 to be hospitalised.

Emergency services at the Bakkavor site after the suspected ammonia leak

Emergency services at the Bakkavor site after the suspected ammonia leak

Emergency crews were called to Bakkavor Meals (formerly Hitchen Foods) at Ince at 6.35pm on Tuesday evening after choking ammonia flooded the premises.

More than two dozen 999 vehicles were at the incident's height as certain staff, fighting for their breath and with streaming eyes, were treated at the scene before being taken to Wigan Infirmary as a precaution, police sealed off the area and fire crews in breathing gear led scores of other employees to safety.

Initially four fire engines attended but this was later scaled down to two as it became more of an operation to tackle what appeared to be a faulty piece of equipment, monitoring it and isolating other systems to prevent any further leaks.

The air quality was tested by monitoring systems and experts were quick to reassure those living and working in the area that there were no causes for heath concerns in the area.

Watch manager Glyn McGann from Wigan fire station said: "It was quite a large leak. People were suffering the effects of exposure to ammonia and they were still being contaminated in the car park after being evacuated because they were downwind of it.

"We moved them further down to the main road and created a cordon.

"The strong winds helped because whatever gases were discharged were transported away and dissipated pretty fast.

"We monitored the leak to make sure it didn't get any worse and then once specialist units arrived we accessed the process room where the leak was.

"We started shutting things down and isolating the unit. We then monitored it from a safe point.

"It did actually take another re-entry into the room and shutting down more machinery before we stopped the ammonia leaking out of the vent valves and ending up at ground level.

"With a lot of specialist units working on a job there will always be some time taken working together to get things under control but the leak was isolated in the end."

A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said on Wednesday morning: "Crews have worked closely with the onsite engineer to isolate the plant system to prevent a further leak.

"The system remained isolated overnight and was being assessed by engineers in the morning.

"The incident has now closed and both fire engines in attendance have left."

The Health and Safety Executive will be sending staff to the plant today.

This is not the first time that the factory, which prepares salad and veg ready meals, has been at the centre of an incident investigation. In 2015 worker Jacek Adamowicz was crushed by a falling bales.

The colourless gas ammonia, which has a highly pungent smell, can be used in refrigeration systems.