UK Government takes on board LPG recommendations

Published:  23 March, 2010

The UK Government has published its response to the ICL Inquiry Report on the explosion at Grovepark Mills, Maryhill, Glasgow, 11 May 2004.

On May 11, 2004, nine people were killed and dozens injured in the explosion at the ICL Plastics factory in Glasgow, and Lord Gill’s Inquiry Report into the underlying causes of the explosion made a number of recommendations, to which the UK Government has responded.

The findings of the Inquiry were presented in July 2009, including recommendations for improving the safe use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) at small bulk installations.

Whilst the primary responsibility for the failings at the ICL Plastics Ltd site rested with the site user, Lord Gill’s Inquiry also identified failings in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) inspection regime in the 1980s and 90s which, says the Government’s response, needed to be addressed.

The Executive Summary reads:

“The key factor leading to the explosion at ICL Plastics Ltd was the corrosion of buried metallic service pipework. It is the Government view, informed by HSE technical expertise, that replacement with polyethylene pipework will substantially reduce the risk at these installations. Therefore, HSE has been working for some time with the LPG supply industry to develop a risk-based pipework replacement programme. Work on this programme is already well underway and replacement action in hand by the supply industry. This is a substantial programme of work covering up to 40,000 premises. A timetable has been set for replacement at all higher-risk premises by the end of 2013 and in all industrial and commercial premises by the end of 2015.

“A parallel inspection campaign is being undertaken by HSE and local authority inspectors to ensure duty holders comply with established safety standards. Where standards are not being met enforcement action will be taken to ensure workers and the public are properly protected. In addition, HSE has provided advice to users about inspecting their own buildings for at-risk pipework, advice which is being reinforced by visiting inspectors.

“Lord Gill’s proposals relating to a new safety regime were subject to a formal consultation process with stakeholders. Many of the specific recommendations were supported by stakeholders who expressed the view that the existing legislative framework allows for Lord Gill’s objectives to be achieved. The Government agrees with this view but recognises the need to ensure that dutyholders are aware of how their legal obligations should be applied to the use of LPG and that they are compliant with them.

“HSE, together with the supply industry, has already issued clear guidance to all industrial and commercial users on the inspection, maintenance and replacement of buried metallic pipework. Further information about dutyholders’ responsibilities will be published on line by the end of March 2010.

“Since the explosion at ICL Plastics Ltd the Government has also introduced tougher sanctions for dutyholders who fail to comply with their statutory obligations through the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 and the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008.

“The Government has asked HSE to engage further with stakeholders on implementing, within the existing legal framework, proposals made by Lord Gill that received their support, such as an installation record, some form of register of suppliers of LPG and the production of an asset register by suppliers.

“However, there was a lack of clear stakeholder support for independent verification of the safety of LPG installations. It is the Government view that competent installation, assessment and maintenance of an LPG installation is already required through the responsibilities placed on owners and operators within the existing legal framework. We believe that it is possible to achieve effectively and quickly the outcomes desired by the proposed verification by ensuring that this current framework is thoroughly applied as outlined above.

“The Government also accepts the recommendations in relation to the continuing development of the safety regime. HSE has already taken action to examine the long-term stability of polyethylene pipes through reviewing knowledge and research being generated for similar pipes being used in natural gas pipeline replacement. This indicates that polyethylene pipes have long-term stability and HSE will identify any additional research needed to ensure the results can be applied to LPG. We also accept Lord Gill’s proposals in relation to knowledge and information sharing, between regulators, suppliers and users and believe this is critical in delivering the continuing safety of small bulk LPG installations. The Government notes that communication between these parties has already significantly increased.”

 

The full report is available here.

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