A fatal fire accident was caused by an uncontrolled release of crude oil, a court has heard.
Robert Greenacre, 24, died in the incident at Total UK Limited’s Lindsey Oil Refinery in Immingham, North Lincolnshire, on June 29, 2010.
The oil giant has been fined more than a £1m after it admitted breaching safety regulations.
Poor risk assessment
Hull Crown Court was told how operators of major accident hazard establishments must have a functioning system of risk assessment in place for all tasks where hazardous substances could be released.
Total failed to do this. If it had, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) say the fire and subsequent fatal injury to Mr Greenacre could have been prevented.
The contracted fitter was working with a colleague beneath a distillation column containing hot crude oil.
Part of the task required them to open equipment beneath the column. When an item of equipment was opened, the crude oil was released. A short time later it ignited, causing the major blaze that took Mr Greenacre’s life.
His colleague was able to escape the scene but suffered minor burns as a result of the flames.
Total UK Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH). It was fined £1.4 million and ordered to pay costs of £34,084.05.
The HSE says the tragic incident should serve as a reminder to all operators that if they fail to assess the risks associated with even simple and routine maintenance tasks, the consequences can be severe.
In this case, it concludes Total fell far short of the standard required of them. The risk should have been identified before the task started, plus action taken to either eliminate or control it. This did not happen.
Operators should always try to eliminate risk through hazard avoidance. This can be done by carrying out the task during shut-down conditions.
Where this is not practicable, the highest achievable levels of isolation to industry standards are required to ensure the safety of workers on site.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: August 1, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown