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News

HSC orders HSE investigation of Buncefield oil depot incident

HSE InfoLine : 20 December, 2005  (Company News)
The Health and Safety Commission has formally asked the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency to investigate last week's incident at the Buncefield oil depot; to appoint an Investigation Board with an independent chair and to make a special report to the HSC as soon as possible.
The Health and Safety Commission has formally asked the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency to investigate last week's incident at the Buncefield oil depot; to appoint an Investigation Board with an independent chair and to make a special report to the HSC as soon as possible.

Announcing the decision, Bill Callaghan, Chair of the HSC, said: 'Earlier today I met representatives of the local authorities with responsibility for environment, regulation and business. They made clear their concerns that there should be no delay in sharing with industry and communities close to major hazard sites the lessons learnt from this incident. I fully agree. Given the nature of the incident, both on- and off-site risks need to be examined. The HSC has made clear the need for the investigation to proceed impartially and without delay and for the conclusions to be made public.

'I know that HSE and the Environment Agency are committed to speedily publishing information on matters being scrutinised by the Investigation Board that require immediate attention by the industry and other stakeholders.'

HSE and the Environment Agency's terms of reference with regard to this incident are to:

ensure the thorough investigation of the incident, the factors leading up to it, its impact both on and off site, and to establish its causation including root causes;
identify and transmit without delay to duty holders and other appropriate recipients any information requiring immediate action to further safety and/or environmental protection in relation to storage and distribution of hydrocarbon fuels;

examine the HSE's and the Environment Agency's role in regulating the activities on this site under the COMAH Regulations, considering relevant policy guidance and intervention activity;

work closely with all relevant stakeholders, both to keep them informed of progress with the investigation and to contribute relevant expertise to other inquiries that may be established;

make recommendations for future action to ensure the effective management and regulation of major accident risk at COMAH sites. This should include consideration of offsite as well as onsite risks and consider prevention of incidents, preparations for response to incidents, and mitigation of their effects;
produce an initial report for the HSC and the Environment Agency as soon as the main facts have been established. Subject to legal considerations, this report will be made public;

ensure that the relevant notifications are made to the European Commission; and
make the final report public.

The investigation will be overseen by a Board, which will report to both HSC and the Environment Agency. The Board chair will be independent of both bodies. It will also include independent members with relevant expertise, as well as staff from the Environment Agency and HSE. The HSC Chair will approve the membership of the Board.

The Commission will publish the special report, pursuant to section 14(5) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The Commission has also requested that any information transmitted pursuant to the second indent of the terms of reference above should be made publicly available.

Bill Callaghan concluded: 'Our aim as an independent Commission is for the investigation to engage with the public and the local community in as open and transparent a way as possible. We will want the investigation to have the fullest engagement with those running the site, those employed on the site and the wider industry.
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