Owners of a Scottish plastics processing plant, where a huge gas explosion killed nine people in May 2004, were fined £400,000 ($804,000 ) for breaching industrial safety legislation.
ICL Plastics Ltd. of Glasgow, Scotland, and its vacuum forming offshoot, ICL Tech Ltd., both of which previously pleaded guilty to four violations of health and safety law, were each fined £200,000 pounds ($402,000) at the High Court in Glasgow.
The blast also injured 33 people. It occurred when liquefied petroleum gas fueling industrial ovens used for a coating process leaked from corroded pipes into the basement of the four-story building. A gas buildup may have been ignited when a worker switched on a light.
ICL admitted failing to maintain underground pipes dating back to 1969 and not carrying out adequate employee risk assessment at the Glasgow plant, which manufactured toughened plastic products such as riot-control shields, batons and protective wear. Experts testified that the pipes, which did not have corrosion protection, could have been replaced for £405 ($814).
At the end of a two-day hearing, the judge, Lord Brodie, said the fines were not intended as a form of reparation for lives lost and injuries suffered in the explosion. In his judgment, he had to balance the level of fine with ICL's decision to continue operating and provide employment to the workforce.
Two months after the explosion, ICL restarted production at a nearby site in Glasgow.
Following the court decision, relatives of workers killed in the explosion spoke out angrily about the fine's inadequacy. They are demanding a public inquiry into the incident. A decision on whether such an inquiry will be held is expected by Sept. 30.
``No amount of money can account for the loss of life or the decimation we have suffered in our lives. ... The current legal system is too restrictive and until company directors face personal prosecution for their negligence, families will never receive justice,'' the victims' families said in a statement.
After the ruling, the ICL companies issued a statement supporting a public inquiry into the tragedy and praising its employees for enabling the firms to continue operating.
``Our thoughts remain with those people most affected by the tragedy - the victims, their families and all who were injured. ... The heroic input from so many people who were injured in the blast, and the loyalty and support of many others, is the reason for the companies' survival to this day,'' the statement said.
The firms said their ``failings were due to inadvertence, rather than any deliberate, reckless or even negligent disregard of their statutory duties.''