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Dangerous Substances (Carriage By Road)

Volume 982: debated on Monday 31 March 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport (1) if he will set up a thorough inquiry into the accident which occurred on the A690 road at Houghton-le-Spring on 17 March 1980, which resulted in the spillage of dangerous chemicals, release of toxic fumes and the triggering of a major alert; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will seek to take powers to ensure that toxic liquids have to be carried in flask containers when transport by road is unavoidable, rather than in casks or drums;(3) if he is satisfied with the safety aspects of conveyance of highly toxic materials over long distances by road.

I understand that this accident occurred when an articulated lorry loaded with drums of chemical collided with a stationary bus causing seven of the drums to fall and fracture. The drums were labelled in accordance with the current regulations and this enabled the emergency services to identify the nature of the hazard and deal with it speedily and effectively. A police officer and the lorry driver who had inhaled fumes were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, and I am pleased to say subsequently discharged.I am, of course, anxious to ensure that when hazardous substances travel by road they do so in the safest possible manner. To this end, I have recently seen the chairman of the Health and Safety Commission to urge on him the speedy preparation of draft regulations to control comprehensively the conveyance of dangerous goods by road. The Health and Safety Executive is also preparing codes of practice which will, amongst other matters, give detailed guidance on the best means of containment for dangerous substances, and the security of loads on vehicles.I do not think that any more detailed information to be gained from a special inquiry of the accident at Houghton le Spring would materially assist in the preparation of these new statutory requirements.