Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 14:54 UK

Fatal blast exposed 'weaknesses'

Stockline factory
Nine people were killed and 33 injured in the explosion in 2004

A fatal explosion at a Glasgow plastics factory exposed weaknesses in the storage and supply of gas at industrial sites, an inquiry has heard.

Nine workers were killed and 33 people were injured when the ICL Plastics factory collapsed on 11 May 2004.

The explosion happened when a build-up of leaking gas from corroded underground piping ignited.

Consultant engineer Rod Sylvester-Evans gave evidence at the opening of second phase of a public inquiry.

The inquiry is being held in the Maryhill Community Hall, near the site of the explosion.

Its chairman, senior judge Lord Gill, will hear from several experts on the storage, supply and use of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas).

In phase one he heard evidence about events leading up to the disaster.

A report written by Mr Sylvester-Evans, who worked on the Piper Alpha inquiry, listed "weaknesses exposed by the ICL tragedy".

He cited the poor maintenance and inspection of buried LPG pipe work.

One has to have complete clarity of who is responsible for what
Rod Sylvester-Evans
Consultant engineer
"Basically the pipe work was 'out of sight, out of mind'," Mr Sylvester-Evans wrote.

He also highlighted poor communication, including a potential lack of training of health and safety executive inspectors in LPG hazards and risks, and of knowledge-sharing between the LPG supplier and user.

Mr Sylvester-Evans told the inquiry: "One has to have complete clarity of who is responsible for what.

"In a simple situation there may just be a supplier and a user but if there's multiple parties involved then there's a chance of multiple misunderstandings arising."

Witnesses previously told how no proper checks were made on corroded metal pipe work installed at the site in the 1960s.

Mr Sylvester-Evans suggested that each premise supplied with LPG ought to display a safety diagram showing who is responsible for different parts of the system.

He recommended that a verification scheme be introduced that requires an expert to check the integrity of the LPG system at each site prior to the supplier being permitted to supply the site.

This would have the effect of bringing to light the extent of underground metal pipe work across the UK, the inquiry heard.

Lord Gill asked: "It would, in effect, amount to a national survey?"

Mr Sylvester-Evans said: "Yes. A survey being done by those who are responsible for its actual use."

When the second phase of the inquiry is complete Lord Gill will make recommendations to ministers aimed at helping prevent a similar tragedy.


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