An oil specialist in the North West has been fined £100,000 after an explosion occurred at one of its plants through health and safety failings.
ESL Fuels Ltd in Merseyside pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to breaching safety regulations after workers cut into a vessel pipe, causing a fuel tank to explode.
The incident occurred on January 19, 2015 at North Blend Tank Farm.
HSE inspector Matthew Lea said: “HSE has brought this prosecution because a failure took place that could have resulted in death or serious injury and we believe every person should be healthy and safe at work.”
A preventable accident
The court heard how contractors used a grinder to cut through a sealed pipe that formed part of a waste oil recovery process.
The gases inside the pipe were highly flammable, and as such the pipe ignited, blowing off the lid of the connected vessel.
Mr Lea added: “Even though nobody was injured this incident could have been prevented if the work of the contractors had been controlled.
“The contractors were given a very basic induction and were not told about health and safety issues in relation to ESL Fuels Ltd being a COMAH major hazard site. Contractors were not warned about the process work being carried out in the North Blend Tank Farm and how it could impact on them.”
Failure to act
Findings by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show the ESL Fuels was aware that the waste oil recovery process had been experiencing issues and could potentially pose a threat to life.
Although the vessel was seen to be foaming and overfilling its storage capacity, a decision was made by the firm to connect the container to an emergency relief dump tank, rather than deal appropriately with the issue.
The collection of foaming resulted in a flammable atmosphere within the relief tank, exposing workers to unnecessary risk.
ESL Fuels Ltd, based at the Stanlow Oil Terminal near Ellesmere Port, has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,000, after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Reference: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: October 7, 2017
Author: Jonathan Brown