Last Buncefield Defendant Found Guilty
All five companies prosecuted for the Dec. 11, 2005, explosion and fire at an oil storage depot in Hertfordshire, England, either pleaded guilty or were found guilty by a jury. Sentencing is set for July 16.
The biggest criminal investigation by Britain’s Health and Safety Executive and its Environment Agency concluded June 18 when a jury found TAV Engineering Ltd guilty of failing to protect workers and the public between Oct. 1, 2003, and Dec. 12, 2005. The verdict means all five companies prosecuted in connection with the Dec. 11, 2005, explosion and fire at the Buncefield oil storage depot in Hertfordshire, England, either pleaded guilty or were found guilty by a jury. Sentencing is set for July 16.
Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited was found guilty last week of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects, and it pleaded guilty to causing pollution to controlled waters around the facility. Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd was found guilty of failing to protect workers and the public. British Pipeline Agency Ltd pleaded guilty to failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects and the same pollution charge, which stems from allowing fuel and firefighting chemicals to pollute groundwater, while Total UK Ltd pleaded guilty Nov. 13, 2009, to failing to ensure workers’ health, safety, and welfare; putting people not in its employ at risk; and the same groundwater pollution charge. More than 40 people were hurt during the incident.
HSE and the Environment Agency are the Competent Authority responsible for regulating non-nuclear major hazardous industrial sites in the United Kingdom under the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 1999, known as COMAH. The two agencies issued a statement after the June 18 verdict saying their staffs worked for hundreds of hours on the investigation, which they characterized as their biggest and most complex joint criminal inquiry. "When the largest fire in peacetime Europe tore through the Buncefield site on that Sunday morning in December 2005, these companies had failed to protect workers, members of the public and the environment," the statement said. "The scale of the explosion and fire at Buncefield was immense and it was miraculous that nobody died. Unless the high-hazard industries truly learn the lessons, then we may not be that fortunate in future."
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