11 December 2015

Progress on process safety since Buncefield

HSE logo

Significant progress has been made in industrial safety over the last decade according to a new report published by the UK’s Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Strategic Forum. The report marks the 10th anniversary of the 2005 Buncefield fire, the biggest industrial explosion in the UK since 1974. The incident caused an oil storage depot in Hemel Hempstead to burn for four days, injuring 43 people.

The findings reveal that significant progress has been made to implement better safety measures, and prevent further incidents on the scale of Buncefield. Published on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website today, it aims to turn this ‘good practice’ into ‘common practice’ and apply this thinking to industries beyond oil and gas, and outside of the UK.

Chair of the COMAH Strategic Forum, Ken Rivers, said: "The Buncefield explosion was a profound shock to the industry. The subsequent investigations led to significant changes in the way refineries, oil storage depots and chemical plants operate. Ten years on from Buncefield is an appropriate time to reflect on what has been delivered, what we have learnt, and what more there is to do. I encourage both business leaders and engineering professionals to reflect on how these insights will help to manage risks more effectively."

The report has been welcomed by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). The Institution is keen to remind companies who were not directly affected by Buncefield to use the report as a best practice guide for process safety.

IChemE Safety Centre director, Trish Kerin, commented: “This report is a timely reminder, particularly in the aftermath of the SOCAR oil rig fire, that process safety should be a high priority for all industries operating in high hazard environments. The Buncefield explosion shook the UK at the time but we should not forget that if we don’t manage hazards effectively there is a very real risk of history repeating itself.”

The report is also endorsed by Chemical Industry Association, Health and Safety Executive, Natural Resources Wales, Office for Nuclear Regulation, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Tank Storage Association, Unite and UK Petroleum Industry Association.

My IChemE

IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).