Albright’s toxic archives #20 A fatal phosphorus shower

It was not only at their disastrous Oldbury factory that deaths occurred due to the direct chemical that their entire operation depended upon. Just two years after the opening of their Portishead factory near Bristol, a white phosphorus explosion killed a man and injured another.

The 24 ton rail tankers in the centre of the picture were laden with molten white phosphorus

This article appeared in The Birmingham Daily Post on January 7th 1956. 

Poor George Buck a maintenance fitter died attempting to  repair a blocked pipe. The explosion showered him with white phosphorus and he died from severe burns.

His colleague , the hapless Herriot, appeared to be doing what he had been instructed to do to purge the gas trap which separated solids from gases. He claimed at the coroners hearing which recorded a verdict of “accidental death” that he had regularly done it this way.

Of course one could blame Herriot for the death, but this shows major failings of management , training and health and safety at these works. The Portishead site and its phosphorus furnaces was modelled on Oldbury works, and one wonders with the failures and fatalities seen there why they continued to care so little about their workforce. Perhaps it was because juries kept returning verdicts of “accidental death” rather than the corporate manslaughter that it really was. 

The effects of white phosphorus misused in war theatres can be seen below. Albright and Wilson’s victims were their workforce first.

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