£5 million Fine After Oil Explosion

An explosion killing four workers leaves a company with a £5 million fine.

Valero Energy UK Ltd and B&A Contracts Ltd of and oil refinery in Pembrokeshire, have been held accountable for the deaths of Dennis Riley, 52, Roberty Broome, 48,  Andrew Jenkins,33 , and Julie Jones,54 , after a storage tank exploded at the site in 2011. Andrew Phillips, whilst he did not die, did sustained major injuries.

The explosion and the following fire took place just after 6pm on the 2 June 2011, as the five workers were emptying a tank in the Amine Recovery Unit, whilst using a vacuum tanker. Swansea Crown Court heard that B&A Contracts Ltd, which was a long-term contractor at the refinery, were carrying out the work, supported by Hertel, another contractor.

A fireball which severed the 5-tonne tank roof, as a result of the explosion, which was then projected 55 metres to impact against a butane storage sphere. Flammable materials were just missed as the roof flew near to the pipe track.

The explosion had most likely been started by the ignition of a highly flammable atmosphere within the tank during the routine emptying operation in order of further maintenance. The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive also found that there had been ongoing failures within the refinery safety management system, which posed a risk of flammable atmospheres within the Amine Recovery Unit,and these risks were not understood or controlled.

Chevron Limited operated the refinery at the time of the incident, however ownership changed in August 2011 when Valero completed the sale.

Pleading guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Valero Energy UK Ltd of Wood Street, London, were fined with £5 million and ordered to pay costs of £1 million.

A fine of £120,000 and costs of £40,000 have been issued to B&A Contacts Ltd of Hubberston Road, Pembrokeshire after they pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Andrew Knowles, a HSE inspector, said after the hearing” This incident, which had devastating consequences for all those involved, was entirely preventable. Many opportunities to take action to control risk were missed, that would have prevented the incident from occurring. It is important to realise that the incident could have had even more serious consequences had the butane sphere or pepe track been damaged by the flying tank roof.”

As well as Mr Knowles’ comment, Detective Superintendent Anthony Griffiths said: ” Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive to support them in the very complex investigation to establish the cause of this tragic incident. We hope that the lessons learned ensure that a tragedy of this nature doesn’t happen again. Our thoughts remain with all the families involved.”

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