Buncefield companies guilty of violations

C&I Issue 13, 2010

TAV Engineering is the latest company to be convicted of crimes under the Health and Safety at Work Act over the Buncefield fire. All five companies involved in the massive fire and explosion in 2005 (C&I 2005, 24, 4) at the Buncefield Oil Storage Depot, Hertfordshire, UK, were charged after they neglected to take adequate safety measures to protect workers and the surrounding community. The charges, which carry unlimited fines, are expected to run into millions of pounds and sentencing is due to take place on 16 July 2010.

The jury ruled that TAV Engineering was guilty of failing to protect people not in its employment. This adds to recent charges against Hertfordshire Oil Storage, the owner of the site, which was found guilty of failing to take all necessary measures to prevent major accidents and limit their consequences. Total UK and British Pipeline Agency pleaded guilty last year to similar charges, as well as failing to prevent pollutants entering rivers and groundwater.

The report, conducted in the aftermath of the fire by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA), found that the explosion occurred after safety measures failed, resulting in petrol overflowing and igniting. The leak caused a massive explosion and fires to burn for five days afterwards. Although nobody was killed, 43 people suffered minor injuries and there was widespread damage to the depot and surrounding properties (C&I 2006, 11, 12).

A joint statement released by the HSE and EA said: ‘The scale of the explosion and fire at Buncefield was immense and it was miraculous that nobody died. Unless the high hazard industries learn the lessons, then we may not be that fortunate in future.’ They also warned that they will prosecute any company that ‘put[s] workers and members of the public at risk and cause[s] environmental damage’.

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