Depot staff 'not trained properly'
Posted Fri, 16 Apr 2010
Supervisors at the Buncefield oil depot which witnessed an explosion as severe as an earthquake were overworked and did not receive the necessary training, a court has heard.
In the months before the "almighty" explosion at Buncefield, pressure was put on workers to fill tanks to their maximum and the device used to measure the tanks was inaccurate, according to the prosecution.
St Albans Crown Court was told that the explosion at the depot near Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, on December 11, 2005, happened after vapour from 250,000 litres of petrol started to spill out from the top of one of the tanks at the depot.
The environmental damage of the explosion is still not known but could last for decades, a court heard as three companies went on trial accused of health and safety breaches.
Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL), TAV Engineering Ltd and Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd are being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency.
It was alleged HOSL "manifestly failed" in its duty to ensure the site was safe.
The court heard workers didn't receive the support they needed to do the job while they were often under pressure to ensure the tanks were filled to the top.
Under an historical agreement a "commercial fine" had to be paid to the British Pipeline Agency if the depot didn't take a certain amount of fuel from two of the three lines that came in from refineries.
To add to the pressure facing the depot, supervisor Steven Lewis was trying to bring in a new management system to run the site after it was transferred from Fina to Total.
And gauges made by Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd and used to measure the fuel levels in the tanks often became stuck.
Copyright © Press Association 2010
St Albans Crown Court