November, 1975

This is a repeating event

197504NovAll DayAppleby-Frodingham Steelworks Explosion 1975Appleby-Frodingham Scunthorpe (GB)Industry:Metal ProcessingCountry:United KingdomLanguage:ENLoC:Deterioration Origin: HSE Incident:Rapid phase-transition explosionHazards:Mechanical/Kinetic/PotentialImpact:HUMAN (On Site Fatalities)Effects:11 – 100 FatalitiesMaterial:Steel


At about 1.25 am on the fourth of November 1975 the foreman at the Queen Victoria Blast Furnace, Appleby-Frodingham Works started a cast that was intended to fill two torpedo ladles. Conditions at the time were normal; the shift manager was in attendance.

Shortly before 2.00 am some 175 tonnes of metal had been run into the first torpedo and the iron stream diverted to the second ladle. Some 10 to 15 minutes later the blow pipe at the No. 3 tuyere position started to burn down on the side facing on to No. 2 tuyere hearth cooler. The burning developed rapidly with intense flame and sparks despite efforts by the furnace keeper to cool the pipe by spraying it with water.

Whilst the pipe was burning down, a substantial water leak from the furnace or fittings was observed. The source of the leak could not be identified because the face of the furnace was obscured by flame. For the same reason men could not approach the leak to take remedial action. The leak of water was under pressure and fell outwards from the furnace towards the edge of the hob; from the hob the water ran down the slope of the cast house floor joining eventually with the iron runnel Water entered the full torpedo ladle.

Within a few minutes of the blow pipe starting to burn down progressive action was being taken by the furnace crew to bring the furnace off blast so that a new pipe could be fitted.

Shortly before 2.47 am instructions from the shift manager were passed via Traffic Control to a loco driver and shunter to remove the full torpedo ladle from the vicinity of the furnace. Traffic personnel were made aware that water was running into the torpedo. As the loco was coupled to the ladle, water was seen to be coming from the iron runner. An explosion occurred as the ladle was moved. An eye witness identified the throat of the ladle as the seat of the explosion. The incident was timed at 2.47 am.

As a result of the explosion there were four immediate fatalities and 15 hospital admissions. Subsequently a further seven employees died as a result of injuries received.

At the time of the explosion 23 persons were working in the Queen Victoria furnace area. This number included four extra helpers standing by to assist in changing No. 3 blast pipe. Casting to the second torpedo was sti11 proceeding at the time of the explosion.


Image Credit: HSE


HSEUK Health & Safety Executive