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News

Views of owners of businesses based near the Buncefield oil depot

HSE InfoLine : 10 January, 2006  (Company News)
At a routine meeting at Dacorum Borough Council, the Buncefield Investigation Manager, Taf Powell, was invited to listen to the views of owners of businesses based near the Buncefield oil depot following the incident at the site on 11 December 2005.
At a routine meeting at Dacorum Borough Council, the Buncefield Investigation Manager, Taf Powell, was invited to listen to the views of owners of businesses based near the Buncefield oil depot following the incident at the site on 11 December 2005.

At the meeting Taf Powell said: 'The Health and Safety Commission has formally announced its intent to direct the Health and Safety Executive to investigate and report on the Buncefield fire and explosion. HSE is leading a joint investigation with the Environment Agency. A joint HSE/EA team has started its on-site investigation, which will be detailed, thorough and wide-ranging.

'In addition, HSC has requested that the investigation be supervised by a board chaired independently of both HSE and EA and also including two other independent experts. The independent chair and members will be announced shortly.

'Both agencies have much expertise in investigating major industrial accidents and we are confident we should be able to identify the root cause of the incident in due course.

'Work carried out immediately after the incident, in advance of the formal establishment of the Investigation Board, has been essential to ensure evidence is not lost, damaged or corrupted by the elements. As the site has become stabilised we can concentrate more on gathering the evidence and pressing ahead to find out exactly what happened. An important task is to examine the electronic and CCTV records. Work has begun on this and we hope they provide meaningful evidence about operating conditions on site.

'The investigation onsite is a complex operation given the devastation, but we are using a wide range of specialists to gather and analyse evidence systematically to ensure we fully understand what happened and establish root causes.

'In terms of early indications, as you know there has been press speculation about the possibility of a vapour cloud enveloping the site and initiating the explosion. We are pursuing this line of inquiry, though there are others that we cannot yet discount with certainty.

'It is our intention that the investigation will be carried out in a transparent way and will liaise closely with all the stakeholders, both on and off-site. We have appointed a community liaison officer to increase access to the investigation and to make sure we are aware of the concerns of the business and residential community.

'We understand that the incident affected a multitude of interests off-site. We know we must keep those people, local residents and others who have key decisions to make as a result of the incident, informed of the investigation's progress. We intend to make available our initial findings and progress within weeks and will publish a full report on the incident as soon as practicable.

'Planning matters concerning any redevelopment on site and indeed rebuilding damaged properties close to the site are the primary responsibility of Dacorum District Council.

'HSE continues to have an important role in advising all planning authorities about the risks from major hazard sites, such as Buncefield.

'Events such as this are extremely rare. We cannot say that the final report will not provide a basis to changing the technical and policy basis of our planning advice to the Council. But equally, at this stage we cannot say that there will be any change to our advice either.'
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