21 June 2010
A criminal trial into the massive explosion and fire that broke out at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire in December 2005 has concluded at St Albans Crown Court. 43 people were injured and 250,000 litres of petrol spilled in the incident. The blast was the largest peacetime explosion in Europe since World War II and caused extensive damage to the surrounding businesses and homes. Mr Justice Calvert-Smith, the judge who presided over the case, has concluded that there had been "a large number of failures with systems and procedures on site".
Breaches of health and safety
Motherwell Control Systems 2003, Liverpool, now in voluntary liquidation, has been convicted of failing to ensure employees were not exposed to risks. TAV Engineering Ltd, of Guildford, Surrey, was found guilty of failing to protect workers and members of the public. Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL) was also found guilty of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects. The company also pleaded guilty to causing pollution to enter controlled waters underlying the vicinity around Buncefield, contrary to the Water Resources Act. Sentencing is due to take place at St Albans Crown Court on July 16, the companies could face unlimited fines for the offences for breaches of the Health and Safety Act.
Three firms were jointly prosecuted for "failing to take all measures necessary to prevent major accidents" and polluting local water aquifers, under charges pursued by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency. A 2009 High Court case found that Total was responsible for the physical damage caused by the explosion.
During the trial the jury heard that employers could have done much more to ensure staff could perform their jobs better at the site.
In 2008 partner Daniel Easton settled a personal injury claim on behalf of one of the tanker drivers who was seriously injured in the blast. Leigh Day continues to represent a group of companies who suffered business interruption and other losses following the explosion. For more information please contact Jill Paterson in the complex claims team on 020 7650 1200.
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