The Cheapside Street whisky bond fire
The Cheapside Street whisky bond fire in Glasgow on 28 March 1960 was Britain's worst peacetime fire services disaster which killed 19 firefighters and servicemen. Over a million gallons of whisky were stored in 21,000 wooden casks with 30,000 gallons of rum. As the temperature of the initial fire increased, some of these casks ruptured, causing a massive "BLEVE", Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion that caused the front and rear walls of the building to burst outwards and causing large quantities of masonry to collapse into the street. This collapse instantly killed three firemen in Cheapside Street as well as 11 firemen and five salvagemen who were battling the blaze from the rear of the building in Warrach Street.
Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations
In the food and drink industry products containing sugar or alcohol amongst others may present a fire or explosion risk and the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) create a protective statutory framework to remove or adequately control the resultant risks of injury.
Hierarchy of Controls
This is based upon prevention and as with most safety regulation across industry operates the Hierarchy of Controls. To satisfy the Court it has adequately tried to control the risk the company must show that it applied the highest ranking control step which was reasonably practicable starting with elimination then descending down.
A recent case
In a case we recently dealt with, a whisky distillery and bond in the middle of an urban area was routinely disgorging through the open air cask strength whisky and containers of pure ethanol into open troughs. Fork lift trucks with hot machinery parts worked in the area and there were other ignition agents such as switch gear and spark hazards which could easily have caused ignition and a catastrophic explosion. Applying the hierarchy of controls the company could not avoid use of the explosive substances by elimination or substitution but could have introduced engineering controls as simple as covering the troughs with a lid like a barbecue cover at little cost. After an expensive enforcement notice process the operation was eventually rendered safe.
If the business had taken good advice at the outset and fabricated covers which may have cost a couple of hundred pounds it could have avoided tens of thousands of pounds of expense and a very lengthy litigation process.