'Student assessed gas pipes' at factory where nine died in blast

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Risk assessments on gas pipes where nine people died in an explosion were carried out by a student doing vacation work, the High Court in Glasgow heard.

The blast at the Stockline plastics factory was caused by a build-up of liquid petroleum gas which leaked from pipes installed in 1969. The court heard it would have cost just £405 to replace the pipes that corroded and caused the explosion.

The court heard that risk assessments at the factory had not specifically investigated the condition of the underground pipe work.

The gas vapour built up in a basement area and may have ignited when a labourer switched on a light when he went into the basement to pick up his tools. The blast caused the collapse of the four-storey former Victorian mill. ICL Plastics and ICL Tech have admitted four breaches of health and safety laws over the incident in May 2004, and will be sentenced today.

Mike Jones QC, defending the two companies, said that the tragedy was attributable to "inadvertence rather than anything more blameworthy". He asked the judge, Lord Brodie, to set the fine at a level which would prevent the companies from going bust.