ICL Plastics, the Scottish processor whose plant in Glasgow, Scotland, was destroyed in an explosion that killed nine people in May 2004, will be prosecuted under industrial safety legislation.
Following a year-long investigation involving the police and Britain's Health & Safety Executive, the Glasgow-based vacuum former will face charges at the High Court for alleged breaches of the British health and safety law. No date has been set for the trial.
ICL is accused of failing to maintain pipes carrying hazardous gases, failing to ensure the safety of its staff and not carrying out ``suitable and sufficient'' employee risk assessment, according to the Crown Office, responsible for Scottish criminal prosecutions.
The May 11, 2004, explosion virtually destroyed the ICL plant and headquarters, located in a mixed industrial and residential area of west Glasgow. The blast wrecked the plant run by group offshoot ICL Tech Ltd., a vacuum former, fabricator and coater of toughened plastic products, including riot-control shields, batons and protective wear. ICL's distribution business, Stockline Plastics Ltd., occupied an adjacent building.
At one point, a team of 120 emergency workers, 15 fire engines, a fleet of ambulances and two navy helicopters, were involved in a major operation to rescue blast survivors from the rubble of the collapsed four-story ICL Tech building.
Apart from the nine dead, who included Stockline Managing Director Stewart McColl and the firm's financial controller Margaret Brownlie, the blast left 43 people injured, among them ICL Tech development manager Nick Downie.
Two months after the explosion, ICL Tech, which lost some of its key equipment, restarted production a mile from the scene of the tragedy. Despite the loyalty of several customers, business there, with a reduced workforce of about nine, is still below the level prior to May 2004, said Downie, who was injured after falling through two floors when the plant was ripped apart.
``It's been a struggle. We really had to start from scratch again. Not many companies would have come through this as we have, supporting our people and getting them back to work,'' Downie said.
The authorities have not formally revealed the cause of the explosion, although some plant survivors suggested it occurred near one of four industrial ovens, two gas-fired and two electric, used in the coating process.
Following the blast, relatives of the victims were backed by members of Parliament, Scottish trades unionists and academics in calling for an inquiry into the tragedy.
Such an inquiry has since been ordered by Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, Scotland's chief law officer, but will not be held until after the High Court case.
``In order to avoid any possible prejudice to criminal proceedings, an inquiry can only happen once these proceedings are concluded,'' stated the Crown Office.
A spokeswoman for ICL said it had no comment on the planned prosecution. Following the Crown Office announcement, the BBC quoted Lorna Downie, wife of ICL Chairman Campbell Downie, as saying: ``I just can't believe it. I'm just too upset to comment.''