Firms Guilty Over Buncefield Blast

Health and safety breaches lead to explosion


Three companies are facing potentially unlimited fines after they were found guilty of health and safety breaches in connection with the explosion at the Buncefield oil depot.

TAV Engineering Ltd, of Guildford, Surrey, was found guilty today of failing to protect workers and members of the public, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said.

Motherwell Control Systems 2003 Ltd, which is in voluntary liquidation, was found guilty of the same charge on Wednesday at St Albans Crown Court.

Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited (HOSL) was also found guilty of failing to prevent major accidents and limit their effects - a verdict which could be reported for the first time today.

Today the company also pleaded guilty to causing pollution to enter controlled waters underlying the vicinity around Buncefield, contrary to the Water Resources Act, an HSE spokeswoman said.

The verdicts follow a joint prosecution by the HSE and the Environment Agency (EA) which the bodies today described as the "biggest and most complex criminal inquiry" they had worked on together.

The destruction at the Hertfordshire depot came after a massive vapour cloud ignited when 250,000 litres of petrol leaked from one of its tanks.

The blast on December 11 2005, widely thought to be the largest explosion in peacetime Europe, measured 2.4 on the Richter scale and could be heard 125 miles away.

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David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “Three companies have been found guilty following this terrible accident at work.

"Explosions at work pose a risk to workers and local residents.

"Those involved in the manufacture, use or storage of explosive or flammable material must carry out their business safely to avoid the risk of injury or death in a work accident."