Dozens of workers quarantined in chemical scare

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Royal Mail workers are kept in the car park as the Emergency Services deal with the incident
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS. Royal Mail workers are kept in the car park as the Emergency Services deal with the incident
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More than 100 workers were quarantined for four hours after a major chemical alert at a Royal Mail sorting office.

Police, firefighters and paramedics were called to the building in Pittman Way, Fulwood, at just before 4pm yesterday, after an unknown substance was detected at the facility.

It is believed a radiation alarm sounded in the loading bay of the building, and airborne chemical traces were then picked up by a handheld device.

Emergency services were called and all 120 workers on the day shift at the site were evacuated to the car park, where they were told they were not allowed to leave.

It was around 8pm when they were finally told it was safe to go.

Specialist fire crews were last night still trying to identify the substance, while North West Ambulance Service staff were on hand to provide advice to employees

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about what to do if they developed any adverse effects.

Speaking from the scene, one worker, who had been trapped inside the car park, said: “There was an oil leak or something like that inside and when they went in to test it with the equipment, it ended up picking up something else, which was an airborne signal.

“We all had to come out here. We have just been stood around chatting.

“They have let some people go home now and they have said they have not noticed any (ill effects).”

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service called in a specialist detection and identification monitoring unit from Merseyside to try and identify the substance. Firefighters were sent inside the building in gas tight suits.

A fire service spokesman said: “We are dealing with a potential release of a chemical or agent but we don’t know what it is yet.

“The specialist team are going to see of there is a gas or chemical that has been released and if there is anything that is identified we will take the appropriate action.

“Crews are on site now making sure that anything which is there stays within the premises and does not escape.”

He added: “We are still trying to identify what the situation is inside the building. The staff will go to the Red Cross building and will be given advice by the North West Ambulance Service as to what they do if they have any effects.”

As the drama unfolded dozens of Royal Mail workers who had turned up to start their night shift looked on.

A mobile fire station, North West Ambulance Service incident unit and a number of fire engines and ambulances were stationed at the front of the site, which was cordoned off by police.

One worker, who didn’t want to be named, said: “They have people in biohazard suits on the premises and they look to see what it is, but I don’t think they know so they have had to call the specialist teams in.

“Normally when we have spillages they can put it into a machine and analyse it and tell exactly what it is but they have not been able to do that.

“The procedures they have are very good and the equipment is top notch.

“They are really good with dangerous substances so to get to this stage it must be serious. This is not a normal situation.”

Another worker said: “We were supposed to start at six and we heard about it when we got here.

“We saw the blue flashing lights as we were coming up and we thought it was an accident on the road at first.”

A police spokesman said no injuries had been reported as a result of the incident.