Two die in explosion at former SSI UK steelworks site

Article by Amanda Doyle

TWO contract workers have been killed after an explosion at a former SSI UK steelworks site in South Bank, Teesside, UK.

The explosion occurred on Thursday 19 September, with firefighters being called to the scene at around 14:15. The two men were believed to have been working at height on a cherry picker at the time of the blast. A second explosion was reported around an hour after the initial blast.

Thai-based Sahaviriya Steel Industries (SSI) purchased the steelworks in 2011 but the plant was mothballed in 2015 when SSI UK entered liquidation. According to regional news website TeessideLive, the men were contractors for demolition firm John F Hunt, which had been awarded the contract to demolish the South Bank coke oven ammonia washers. The washers had been taken out of service and removed from the gas stream around 1990.

Dave Cocks, former Technology Manager at the site, told the BBC: "It would appear that this terrible accident has happened in part of that gas-cleaning process. Clearing a site of this nature does take a lot of planning and preparation and there's no doubt over the last four years there will be areas of the plant where there would be materials that would need to be removed to keep the plant safe for demolition."

According to The Northern Echo, Steve Johnson, Area Manager for Prevention and Protection at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said on Friday: "It took 24 firefighters and four appliances to deal with the fire. There remains a controlled burning in the tower while further specialist advice is sought about the flammable potential of any other chemicals on the site. We are allowing it to burn until we get specific technical advice. We have appliances which are on site and they will remain on site in case of any flare ups. The risk of further explosion is minimal hence we are seeking further scientific advice. The difficulty is that we can’t confirm the quantity of product in there. It is likely to be a different mix of chemicals.”

All work on the site has been suspended and the HSE is involved in the investigation into the incident.

Article by Amanda Doyle

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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