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BUNCEFIELD PROSECUTIONS

Five companies prosecuted over the Buncefield fire and explosion

The huge explosion and blaze near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire in December 2005 caused widespread damage and left 43 people injured. The Environment Agency (EA) has now announced that criminal proceedings have begun in respect of Total UK, Hertfordshire Oil Storage, the British Pipeline Agency, TAV Engineering and Motherwell Control Systems. The EA said the decision to prosecute followed “a thorough and complex criminal investigation conducted by the HSE and the EA”. The case is scheduled to open on 23 January 2009 at the Magistrates Court in Watford.

Comment: The Buncefield incident should also act as a reminder to the construction sector. The oil terminal operators and other experts did not anticipate or plan for the vapour cloud explosion that occurred. The worst case scenario was considered to be a fire. Regularly revisiting and reassessing judgements on worst case scenarios is therefore advisable in all sectors and especially construction where fire and structural collapse have the potential for major loss of life.   

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