A report published yesterday has shown safety management failings were behind Britain’s most expensive industrial disaster at Buncefield Oil Storage Depot in December 2005.
The explosion at the facility caused a fire which lasted for five days and a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency’s (EA) investigation has shown the management of petrol tank refuelling was both ‘deficient and not fully implemented’.
The report says a rise in the amount of fuel traffic passing through the site put ‘unsustainable pressure’ on the management’s receipt and storage processes, meaning they struggled to monitor what was happening efficiently.
The site also ‘lacked the necessary engineering support’ and a culture was developed within the company in which ‘keeping operations going was more important than safe processes’.
In July 2010, five companies were fined a total of £9.5million for their part in the accident.
Gordon MacDonald, chairman of the COMAH Competent Authority Strategic Management Group which published the report says: ‘Major industrial incidents are thankfully rare – this report will help make them even less frequent by sharing some key insights and lessons with the wider high hazard industries. Companies that work in a high hazardous industry need to have strong safety systems in place, underpinned by the right safety culture.’
He continues: ‘Buncefield is a stark reminder of the potential result of a poor attitude towards safety. The local community was devastated and the environmental impact of the disaster is still evident today. With estimated total costs exceeding £1 billion (€1.2 billion), this remains Britain’s most costly industrial disaster.’