On 5 April 1975 at 11.lO hrs there was an explosion at the factory of Laporte Industries Ltd, Uphall Road , llford, Essex. It occurred in the process plant called a Lurgi Electrolytor and as a result of uncontrolled release of the caustic electrolyte used in the plant one man subsequently died from his injuries. The plant itself was extensively damaged by the explosion and there was some local damage to the building on the site.
The purpose of the electrolytor is to produce hydrogen by the electrolysis of potassium hydroxide solution. The process also produces oxygen which is discharged as a waste product.
On Saturday 5 April the operator on duty was R Church. He had come on duty at 06.30 hrs. At about 11.10 hrs there was an explosion in the oxygen separator drum which ruptured. This liberated a large quantity of caustic solution which splashed over the operator and covered most of his body. He was alone in the room at the time in accordance with normal practice. He was heard shouting for help by the shift supervisor (FW Howe) who was nearby and had hurried to the building after hearing a loud noise. Mr Howe found Mr Church kneeling on the floor of the building and led him outside. The factory rescue team took him to the washroom and put him in the shower. Shortly afterwards he was taken to hospital and died later as a result of caustic burns. Mr Howe and RJ McCool who assisted Mr Church both received burns as a result of contact with the caustic solution on his clothing, and RS Boxall, a lorry driver who was passing the building at the time was also splashed with caustic on the head and arms. He was detained in hospital for a few days, but all three men were able to resume their work in a short time.
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