Letter: Flixborough blame

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report on new tests relevant to the Flixborough disaster of 1974 suggests that workers were blamed for the accident (25 November). You report the public inquiry as suggesting that plant operators "may have been negligent in letting the pressure [of cyclohexane] rise," bringing down a temporary bypass pipe.

The report of the court of inquiry specifically rejected this. Paragraph 225(v) places some blame on those responsible for the design of the bypass pipe, whose fall appeared to be the immediate cause of the explosion. Paragraph 225 (vi) says of the pressure and temperature in that pipe, "For the attainment of such pressures and temperatures none of the Control Room staff at the time can be criticised much less blamed," (page 37). I am unhappy that, so long after the event, an unsubstantiated hint of blame should now be suggested.

It may well be that further tests into the likely causes of the blast should be undertaken if it continues to be relevant to the chemical industry. At the end of the inquiry, my memory suggests that the conclusions in this respect never commanded complete agreement among the experts involved. Indeed, there were those who suspected an incident immediately prior to the fall of the bypass pipe. But let us not blacken the memory of innocent victims of the disaster.



The writer was formerly chaplain to Nypro at Flixborough