Total UK Limited have been fined £1.4m after a major fire led to the death of a worker at its oil refinery in North Lincolnshire.
Twenty-four year old Robert Greenacre from Grimsby was working near a crude oil distillation unit just before the fire broke out at the Lindsey Oil Refinery (TLOR) in Immingham on 29th June 2010.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the oil giant after an investigation found a fire was caused by an uncontrolled release of crude oil.
Hull Crown Court heard that Greenacre, who was a contracted fitter, was working with a colleague beneath a distillation column containing hot crude oil. The job required them to open equipment beneath the column. When an item of equipment was opened, the crude oil was released. A short time later it ignited. Greenacre’s colleague was able to escape the scene suffering minor burns, but he did not escape and died beneath the column.
The court also heard operators of major accident hazard establishments must have in place a functioning system of risk assessment for all tasks where hazardous substances could be released.
Operators should always try to eliminate risk through hazard avoidance. In many circumstances this could be achieved by carrying out the task during shut-down conditions. Where this is not practicable, the highest achievable levels of isolation to industry standards are required.
Total UK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999 (COMAH) and were fined £1.4m and ordered to pay costs £34,084.05
Speaking following sentencing, Mr Greenacre’s family said: “Despite the outcome of this case, it doesn’t change how we have been affected. Rob was our world. We have been left with a shattered and empty future, we are heart broken and changed forever”
Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector John Moran said: “If Total had followed well established principles of risk assessment this major fire and the subsequent fatal injury to Robert Greenacre could have been easily prevented.
“Although the accident arose from a simple task, the magnitude of the risk was great. The risk should have been identified before the task started, and action taken to either eliminate or control it. This did not happen.
“Total UK Limited as operator in control of a major accident hazard establishment fell far short of the standard required of them.
“This tragic incident should serve as a reminder to all such operators that if they fail to assess the risks associated with even simple and routine maintenance tasks, the consequences can be severe, and irreparable to the people involved and their families”
Total UK said it “wishes to repeat its profound sorrow and regret to the family, friends and colleagues of Mr Robert Greenacre.
“Following findings from the investigation, immediate improvements were made including a redesign of piping, the implementation of revised systems and procedures and the provision of additional training to prevent such an accident occurring in the future.”