March, 1989

This is a repeating event

198922MarAll DayPeterborough Explosion 1989Nobels Explosives Co. Peterborough (GB)Industry:RoadCountry:United KingdomLanguage:ENLoC:Confined explosion Origin: HSE Incident:Explosive decompositionHazards:ExplosiveImpact:HUMAN (Offsite Fatalities)Effects:1-10 FatalitiesMaterial:Explosives


At 09.45 on 22 March 1989 a vehicle carrying approximately 800 kg of mixed explosives exploded at the premises of Vibroplant Ltd on the Fengate Industrial Estate, Peterborough. The explosion caused the death of a fireman and injuries to at least 107 other people, 84 of whom received hospital treatment. Two of the injured were admitted to intensive care.

The vehicle was a standard commercial model specially modified to carry explosives, operated by Nobels Explosives Company (NEC), a subsidiary of ICI. It had entered the Vibroplant yard, in order to turn round off the road, when a minor explosion occurred inside the load compartment, causing a fire. The fire brigade was called and took up position. The fire increased and after approximately 12 minutes the entire load, apart from a small number of detonators, detonated en masse.

The vehicle did not carry any external placarding to tell emergency services that it contained explosives, but this did not contravene the legislation in force at the time. The fire brigade was told that the vehicle was carrying commercial explosives before firemen arrived on the scene.


Image Credit: HSE


HSEUK Health & Safety Executive