Valero Energy UK Ltd has been fined £5 million and ordered to pay £1 million costs in relation to an explosion that happened at its Pembrokeshire oil refinery eight years ago on 2 June 2011, killing four workmen. The company pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The explosion occurred in the Amine Recovery Unity where the workmen were emptying a 5-tonne tank. It resulted in a fireball that severed the roof of the tank which was projected 55 metres. The workmen were employed by long term contractor B&A Contracts Ltd which also pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and were fined £120,000 with costs of £40,000 ordered.
HSE’s investigation found there had been longstanding failures within the refinery safety management systems and as a result the risks posed by flammable atmospheres within the Unit were not understood or controlled.
At the time of the incident the refinery was operated by Chevron Limited, but ownership changed in August 2011 when the sale to Valero was completed.
In 2010 Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL) which was jointly owned by Chevron with Total was fined £1.45 million and ordered to pay costs of £1 million in relation to the 2005 explosion at the Buncefield oil storage depot.
It is the second time that a fine of £5 million has been imposed for health and safety breaches since the Sentencing Council’s Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences: Definitive Guideline came into effect in February 2016. In September 2016 the operators of Alton Towers, Merlin Attractions Operations Ltd was fined £5 million, the highest fine imposed under the Guideline to date, following the Smiler rollercoaster crash that injured 16 people in June 2015.
Fisher Scoggins Waters are a London based law firm who specialise in construction, manufacturing and engineering matters. If you have recently had a health and safety incident occur in your workplace and require legal advice, please phone us on 0207 993 6960.