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FACTORY EXPLOSION REPORT PUBLISHED

Public inquiry concludes loss of nine lives was an ‘avoidable disaster’ 

On 11th May 2004 an explosion occurred at the Stockline plastic factory in Glasgow. Nine people lost their lives and 33 others were injured. An underground pipe contained liquified petroleum gas (LPG) failed and the gas ignited. ICL Plastics and ICL Tech, were fined a total of £400k for H&S offences. 

The Report of the Public Inquiry into the the explosion has now been published. The report by Lord Gill says the explosion was an “avoidable disaster” and criticises the two companies for a lack of knowledge and understanding of the gas. 

ICL Plastics Ltd and ICL Tech Ltd said: “Lord Gill makes observations on all those who played a part in the mistakes that led to the explosion. The ICL companies wish to express profound sadness and apologise for their omissions and the shortcomings of those who were responsible for the health and safety of the employees. ”

The families involved said: “The time has come for the HSE to accept that soft-touch regulation does not work and that workers throughout the UK, whether they work with LPG or not, should have confidence that health and safety regulators have employers quaking in their boots.”

HSE Chief Executive Geoffrey Podger said: “HSE has already done a great deal since the accident at ICL Plastics, especially in preparing for a comprehensive programme by the UK LPG suppliers for buried metal pipe work to be replaced with newer and more robust plastic pipes. This will be taken forward with the added benefit of Lord Gill’s report.”

Comment: This report has lessons for those involved with construction projects. Low probability high consequence events do come to pass and construction is not without considerable potential in this respect. A major fire on an intensely manned refurbishment project or a structural collapse onto public areas may be only a chain of events away. 

All those involved therefore need to keeping a keen eye on where such low probability events are most likely to occur and to revisit basic assumptions regularly. HSE need to remain robust and steadfast in regulating the construction sector where, despite much improvement, there remain many pressures that can undermine the priority given to health and safety.

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