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10042 Chemical accident in United kingdom with explosives
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General accident information
Class/Quality * * * * *
Year 1989
Summary Explosion of van carrying commercial explosives
Caused blast wave, evacuation and 108 casualties
Country GB
Chemicals Explosives, Fuzes, detonant, type a
Cause Human-failure
Fatalities/Injuries 1 / 107
Occurrences or events Blast-wave/Shock-wave, Detonation, Drive, Emergency-stop,
Evacuation, Explosion, Fire, Fire fighting/Emergency response,
Ignition, Smoke-emission, Wrong-action, Wrong-action,
Wrong-labelled/Marked, Wrong-package, Wrong-package
Full accident information 
download accident report Click here to view a document containing the full accident information

Date : 1989 0322

An explosion in which a fireman was killed and at least 107 injured, was due to badly packed fuseheads and rusty metal boxes used to carry them.
The accident began when fusehead combs in a box were ignited by the jolting of the vehicle carrying them as it passed over a speed ramp on entering the yard at the industrial estate. The fire started when a box of fusehead combs in the lorry was ignited by impact, as the lorry
drove over a speed hump. Crewed by a driver and an attendant who had been employed for 13 months and 11 years respectively, the van was carrying 780/kg of 4 different Class 1.1 high explosives, 750 detonators and 12400 fuseheads in 4 boxes. The fuseheads comprised 10000 Vulcan individual fuseheads in 1 box and 2400 of the Cerium type in 3 boxes. The Cerium fuseheads were supplied uncut on combs with 20 heads per comb.
The shock, caused by the driving over the speed ramp, produced a minor explosion in the load compartment which blew the rear roller shutter door on the vehicle outwards. The driver and attendant noticed blue smoke coming from the rear of the van, quickly parked and warned people at an adjacent factory that the vehicle contained commercial explosives.
An emergency call made by a worker at 0936 hours mistakenly reported the incident as a 'tanker fire' but a second call at 0939 hours clearly referred to explosives being on board. This information was relayed to the fire brigade rescue vehicle which reached the yard at 0941 hours. The leading fireman on this vehicle was also told by one of the crew that the van, which by now was issuing forth thick yellow smoke, contained detonators. The rescue vehicle, which was parked behind a brick wall for safety, was joined by 2 fire tenders.
The leading fireman decided that water should be played on the burning explosives van to provide more time for evacuation of the surrounding buildings. The firemen from 1 of the tenders had moved out beyond the protection of the wall, ready to direct water from a nozzle onto the van, when the explosives detonated en masse. The 2 men were standing 15/meter from the van at the time and 1 was struck on the head by shrapnel and died shortly afterwards.
Nearly all members of both fire crews were injured to varying degrees. At least 107 people were injured, of whom 84 received hospital treatment and 2 were admitted to intensive care.
The explosives firm was fined 250000 GB pounds for van blast and ordered to pay 92000 GB pounds costs.

The root cause of the fire was traced to packages of cerium type fusehead combs which, as packed, were much more susceptible to impact ignition than permissible. The packaging in use was not an authorised package either in the companies specifications or the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) product authorisation or packaging approval process. The package had developed as a result of informal customer liaison and internal packaging change decisions.

Lessons learned (recommendations)
Operators should develop systems to ensure that all activities involved in transporting explosives are safe and that they meet the requirements of the relevant regulations. These should include proper classification and labelling and correct packing of explosives;
safety and quality systems should apply not only to new or modified products but should also include a periodic review of established ones;
transport crews should be kept informed about changes in circumstances such as new products among their load and their training should include measures needed when carrying specific products and mixed loads;
all transport of explosives should be preplanned to include measures to ensure that explosives in different compatibility groups are prevented from coming into contact with each other if their packaging is degraded through fire or minor explosions.

A 9h45, un v??hicule transportant pr??s de 800 kg d???explosifs explose alors qu???il effectue un demi-tour sur le site d???une entreprise dans la zone industrielle o?? il s???est ??gar??. Le camion, sp??cialement am??nag?? pour transporter jusqu????? 5 t d???explosifs, effectue 2 livraisons (7h15 et 8h) puis se dirige vers une usine de fabrication d???artifices. Arriv?? dans la zone industrielle, le chauffeur se rend compte qu???il s???est tromp?? de route ; il passe un dos d?????ne pour entrer sur le parking d???une entreprise de la zone, afin de faire ?? tour. Le gardien de l???entreprise et les deux chauffeurs d??tectent de la fum??e puis des flammes dans le chargement du camion. Ils arr??tent le v??hicule, pr??viennent les pompiers et font ??vacuer le site. Les mesures sont toutefois insuffisantes et des personnes assistent au d??veloppement du sinistre depuis l???entr??e sur site et les b??timents alentour. 12 minutes plus tard, la cargaison d??tone, provoquant la mort d???un pompier qui se trouvait ?? 15 m. Plus d???une centaine de personnes sont bless??es, 87 seront hospitalis??es, dont 2 dans un ??tat grave. Les dommages aux b??timents et voitures proches sont consid??rables et des bris de vitres sont recens??s jusqu????? 1 200 m. Un crat??re de 3,5 m de rayon et de 46 cm de profondeur marque l???emplacement du camion. Le passage du v??hicule sur le dos d'??ne a provoqu?? la chute d???un emballage de t??tes d'amor??age de type peigne pour feux d???artifices, entra??nant leur allumage puis la propagation du feu au reste du chargement (d??tonateurs + explosifs civils), jusqu????? l???explosion. L???emballage ??tait non-conforme et dangereux: nombre excessif par boite, pr??sence de composition et de rouille dans les boites en m??tal. L???exploitant est condamn?? ?? une amende de 250000 livres pour infraction ?? la loi britannique (Health and Safety at work act 1974).

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