Stockline Plastics factory explosion
On 11 May 2004, the ICL Plastics factory (commonly referred to as Stockline Plastics factory), in the Woodside district of Glasgow in western Scotland, exploded. Nine people were killed, including two company directors, and 33 injured, 15 seriously. The four-storey building was largely destroyed.
The first service to attend were a Patient Transport Ambulance crew who took the decision to divert straight to the scene because they were so close at the time of the explosion. This initial crew saved dozens of lives by taking control of the evacuation and pulling the injured to safety. Around a dozen were trapped in the rubble. Fire crews used specialist search-and-rescue equipment, including sniffer dogs, carbon dioxide detectors (which detect the respired carbon dioxide of trapped persons), thermal-imaging equipment, and fibre-optic cameras to search for people trapped in the collapsed building. Some trapped workers were able to make themselves heard by shouting, or by using their mobile phones. Fire and Ambulance crews pulled seven people alive from the rubble on 11 May. The search through the factory's ruins continued for the following three days.
Up to 300 firefighters and paramedics were present at the scene and were supported by, the crew of a Sea King rescue helicopter from RAF Leconfield, North Yorkshire, and a sniffer dog team from RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. The volunteer group International Rescue Corps, who specialise in travelling to the site of earthquakes and helping locate survivors, sent eleven of its Scottish members to the scene.
The injured were taken for treatment to five hospitals in Glasgow; the most patients were taken to Stobhill Hospital, Western Infirmary and Glasgow Royal Infirmary, and the remaining were treated at Southern General and Victoria Infirmary. Seven people were declared dead at the scene, and two died in Western Infirmary. One firefighter was taken to hospital after being overcome by fumes, and several were stricken by heat exhaustion while labouring in the hot and humid conditions.
By the end of the second day, seven deaths had been declared. After the fourth day, Strathclyde Police had named the deceased as Annette Doyle (32), Peter Ferguson (52), Thomas McAulay (41), Tracey McErlane (27), Ann Trench (34), company directors Stewart McColl (60) and Margaret Brownlie (49), Kenneth Ronald Murray, (45), and Timothy Smith (31). With the recovery of Mr. Smith's body from the site on 14 May, Strathclyde Fire Brigade announced that they believed no hope of recovering live victims remained.
The cause of the explosion was initially unknown. Some press coverage reported eyewitness accounts of gas industrial ovens in the coating department exploding. This has since been shown as unlikely as the gas ovens used on site have been found intact.
Another theory investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was that there was no explosion. An article in the Scotsman newspaper of 5 October 2004 stated that the HSE was investigating the possibility that heavy machinery and pallets kept on the upper floors caused the floor to collapse, bringing the rest of the building down with it.
Other theories included a dust explosion and a build-up of methane beneath the building.
However the final inquest of the HSE indicated that the explosion was due to an ignition of gas released by a leak in a pressurised petroleum gas pipe.
The liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank and pipes that had been installed beneath the factory in the late 1960s had corroded allowing the gas to escape.
Confusion over name
Although regularly referred to as the "Stockline Plastics factory", largely due to the signage around the building, the factory was owned by ICL Plastics and indeed a large majority of the work that took place there was for ICL Technical Plastics. The offices on the floors above were used by ICL Plastics, ICL Tech and Stockline Plastics.
Stockline Plastics was a distribution company and did not manufacture anything, therefore did not require a factory. Stockline Plastics were not charged at all in relation with the incident as they had no involvement with the factory.
The Grovepark Fund, established to help the families of those killed and injured in the blast, received a boost when the departing Celtic F.C. star, Henrik Larsson, announced that the shirt he wore in his farewell match against Seville on Tuesday would be auctioned in aid of the appeal. It was expected to attract bids of up to £10,000.
The Crown Office decided on 17 February to prosecute ICL Plastics Limited and ICL Tech Limited under the Health & Safety at Work Act following a report conducted by the Glasgow Procurator Fiscal and HSE.
The company has been accused of:
- Failing to maintain pipes carrying hazardous gas;
- Failure to ensure the safety of staff and visitors; and
- Failing to carry out suitable and sufficient risk assessments.
The original hearing date of 12 December 2006 was postponed as "The timescale that the defence solicitors have been afforded for their preparation of the case has been significantly less [than the Procurator Fiscal's]".
The ICL Inquiry took place in Maryhill Community Central Hall. It occurred after the criminal proceedings were concluded.
It started on 2 July 2008, after extensive refurbishment work was carried out on behalf of the Scottish Courts Service to make the venue suitable for the public inquiry. The Crown, the victims' families, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and ICL are all represented. The inquiry examined over 20,000 pages of evidence and took place in two phases. The first was a factual enquiry into what occurred. The second stage, to look at causes and reasons, began in October 2008. The inquiry was chaired by Lord Gill. Roy Martin Q.C., a former Dean of the faculty of Advocates, was lead counsel for the inquiry.
As well as being critical of the companies involved, it noted failings by the Health & Safety Executive's supervision and inspection regime. The Report contained various recommendations relating to proper safety protocols concerning the storage and use of liquid petroleum gas.
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- Theherald.co.uk Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
- Theherald.co.uk Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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- Community Central Hall
- The ICL Inquiry
- Report from Universities of Strathclyde and Stirling ICL/Stockline disaster: an independent report on working conditions prior to the explosion
- The Times: On the spot: at the Glasgow factory explosion (Tuesday)
- The Scotsman: Four Die in Factory Blast Horror