Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 1st December 2011


Report of the Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services


Incident at Dow Corning 1st October 2011


Purpose of the Report

1.             To apprise Members of the Incident at the Dow Corning site on Saturday 1st October 2011.


THAT the report be noted.

Reason for the Recommendation

To ensure consideration of the incident at Dow Corning.


2.             At Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee on the 6th October 2011 the Chairman requested that a report be presented to the next appropriate meeting in relation to the incident at the Dow Corning site on Saturday 1st October 2011. Councillor R. Bertin also submitted a request for consideration of the incident which is attached as an appendix to this report.

3.             The Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH) state that sites which are considered to present the greatest risk of a major accident taking place are required to produce an offsite emergency plan to facilitate a multi-agency response by the emergency services etc.

4.             The Barry Chemical Complex Offsite Emergency Plan was last reviewed and updated in line with the COMAH regulations in 2010.

5.             The Plan went through a validation exercise held on the 10th March 2011 which was attended by the Vale of Glamorgan Council, South Wales Police, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Welsh Ambulance Service, the Environment Agency (EA), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and all the relevant Chemical Companies involved in the plan.

6.             The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) are working with the COMAH Group and Barry Chemical Complex to develop training that will ensure that the off-site plan is embedded into organisational procedures

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             On the 1st October 2011 at 06.35 the klaxon alarm at Dow Corning was activated, this was due to an incident involving a pressure gauge failure and resulted in ground level release of Chlorosilane from the Distillation Column at the Dow Corning site (incident having started 19 minutes earlier).

8.             The Council's Civil Protection Duty Officer was informed that there had been an incident at 08.20 am on the 1st October 2011 by South Wales Fire and Rescue Control. This was for information only as the incident was closed with no actions required.

9.             The CPU held a meeting with South Wales Fire Service and South Wales Police on Monday 3rd October 2011 to discuss the incident.

10.        The CPU contacted Dow Corning on Monday 3rd October 2011 to ascertain what had happened. The site was holding an internal investigation and a meeting for 25th October 2011 was arranged to consider the response to the incident.

11.        The CPU also contacted the Environment Agency Wales (EAW), on Monday 3rd October 2011 and they confirmed that as one of the competent Authorities they had been informed via their normal route i.e. by e-mail.

12.        The EAW informed the CPU on 7th October 2011 that they would not be investigating this incident under COMAH. They would be looking at this under normal procedures in the first quarter 2012.

13.        At the meeting held 25th October 2011 Dow Corning  gave a  timeline on the incident, this is shown below:




Release from column. Air monitors indicate high level of HCL. Pressure reduced in column.


Pump stopped on loop. Main valve shut off automatically and stopped release but there was still residual material in the pipes


Fixed foam deluge system activated and covered area with foam


Claxon sounded as precaution. Release was moving towards the south gate and area sprayed to douse the cloud


Informer system initiated


Emergency response team closed valve under pressure gauge in level ‘A’ chemical suits


Incident closed


All Clear sounded


14.        Dow Corning advised that the off-site plan was not initiated because of the following;

-     the incident was over within a sort period of time,

-     none of the leaked material crossed the site boundary fences,

-     fence line monitoring was in place and

-     the emission itself was visible.


15.        Dow Corning recognised that there had been a communications error made by site staff which they felt was down to 'human nature'. It was explained that though the klaxon was sounded due to the short timescale of the incident staff may have perceived that all the remaining activities in activating the plan would have be considered excessive.

16.        While the Emergency Services accepted that it may be an understandable issue with human nature and have no doubt that the likelihood of this happening in the future is small. They would need to have a procedure in place detailing how to respond if members of the public dialled 999 informing them that a COMAH alarm was sounding. This would need a new procedure which would require Fire Control to contact all the sites asking for information on the nature of the Alarm for them to respond accordingly.

17.        Dow Corning was now developing an escalation process to remove the 'human nature' out of the procedures by developing standard terminology/templates.

18.        The emergency response is being reviewed with a possibility of introducing a ‘Tiered Fire Service Response’ to the site. This may reduce the impact a full Pre-determined Attendance would have on the Fire Service/Community, whilst encouraging Dow Corning to contact the Fire Service.  Discussion is ongoing with this and it is only at an early stage of development.

19.        It was acknowledged that the issue with the plan not being activated was due to human error and highlighted a training gap. This issue is being taken forward by Dow Corning.

20.        The Emergency Services noted how safe the site was and also that there is a lot of good work being done by the site; including working closely with emergency services to undertake continual improvements.

21.        Dow Corning stated that nobody on or off-site was harmed or put at risk as a result of the incident.

22.        The Companies based at Barry Chemical Complex have invested in an 'Informer' communications system for public information.  This incident had revealed a glitch in this system.  This is an automated system that telephoned subscribers to give them a pre-scripted message, when the system had been changed in 2009 an error had occurred with the dialling codes in that the zero had been omitted, this has now been rectified. This only affected a small number of the contacts listed.

23.        The CPU has advised Dow Corning of a possible opportunity to investigate the use of the Council’s Contact Centre which is currently providing a service for Cardiff Airport.

24.        In view of the above the CPU will enable:

 -     the Barry Chemical Complex Offsite Emergency Plan (2011) to be amended to include a procedure for activation and

-      the Barry Chemical Complex to investigate the use of the Council’s Contact Centre as a means to undertake the warning and informing of the community.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

25.        None directly arising from this report

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

26.        COMAH places a statutory duty on local authorities to prepare off-site Emergency Plans in case of incidents occurring on industrial sites which store particular types and quantities of hazardous materials

27.        COMAH Regulation 14 requires that site operators provide information to people who are liable to be affected by a major accident at an establishment must be given specified information about the establishment, the major accident hazards and the safety measures that are in place.

Crime and Disorder Implications

28.        None directly arising from this report

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

29.        None directly arising from this report

Corporate/Service Objectives

30.        Community Leadership: Partnership Working -Co-ordinate the Council's obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act and as a category 1 responder work with the Local Resilience Forum partners (CL13).

Policy Framework and Budget

31.        This report is for consideration.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

32.        As the COMAH site affected a number of Wards and this report was for Elected Members' information, only the Cabinet Member, Councillor Paul Church, has been consulted on the report.

33.        In addition Dow Corning, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and South Wales Police have all been consulted on this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

34.        Housing and Public Protection

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Debbie Spargo, Principal Civil Protection Officer, 02920 673044

Officers Consulted

Tony Curlis - Operational Manager

Responsible Officer:

Peter H. Evans, Director of Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services