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Refinery fire tragedy just days after Buncefield 'guilty' verdicts

01 July, 2010

Total UK has confirmed that there will be no disruption to fuel supplies to forecourts and wholesalers in the north

east following the tragic explosion and fire at its Lindsey Oil Refinery near Immingham in North Lincolnshire on Tuesday in which a young man died.

The company released a statement exlaining that formal investigations by the Police and the Health & Safety Executive had been instigated and remained ongoing, and that it was "cooperating fully with these enquiries in order to understand exactly how and why this terrible incident occurred".

It also confirmed that a clean-up operation of the affected area was taking place and that its foremost priority had been to ensure that the areas of the refinery unaffected by the incident were safe for its workforce to continue to work.

All affected process units at the refinery remain shut down and safely isolated.

The statement also said: "As a precautionary measure, we communicated to our workforce this morning that a full inspection was underway of potentially affected areas. This exercise remains ongoing but all results so far show no risks to the safety and health of our workforce. This is in line with the ongoing investigation and the rest of the refinery continues to operate normally."

The Lindsey Oil Refinery covers 500 acres and is the third largest refinery in the UK, processing 10 million tonnes of crude a year (equivalent to 200,000 barrels a day).

The explosion comes just days after a jury at St Albans' Crown Court found TAV Engineering Ltd guilty of failing to protect workers and members of the public following an investigation into the explosion and fire at Buncefield Oil Storage Depot on December 11, 2005. Buncefield Oil Storage Depot in Hertfordshire in December 2005. Fortunately no one was hurt in the blast.

Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd was found guilty of the same charge, while Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited was found guilty of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects. The company also pleaded guilty to causing pollution to enter controlled waters underlying the vicinity around Buncefield.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Environment Agency are the 'Competent Authority' responsible for regulating non-nuclear major hazardous industrial sites in England and Wales under the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999 (COMAH).

As the competent authority, the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency have a responsibility to investigate major incidents and ensure that lessons are learned, and issued a joint statement:

"This was the biggest and most complex criminal inquiry we have worked on together - the product of many hundreds of hours of painstaking forensic investigation.

"When companies put workers and members of the public at risk and cause environmental damage we will prosecute.

"When the largest fire in peacetime Europe tore through the Buncefield site on that Sunday morning in December 2005, these companies had failed to protect workers, members of the public and the environment.

"The scale of the explosion and fire at Buncefield was immense and it was miraculous that nobody died. Unless the high hazard industries truly learn the lessons, then we may not be that fortunate in future."