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Flawed safety procedure costs oil refinery £400k

A recent court case has dramatically illustrated the need for eternal vigilance and "going the extra mile" with health and safety management, even when great care is being taken. It involves a flammable gas leak at the Total Lindsey Oil Refinery (TLOR) in North Killingholme, on the Humber estuary near Grimsby.

The leak happened during a planned shutdown for inspection and maintenance, involving a new 1km section of pipework linking two operating units.

The HSE inspectors found that the work fell victim to a flaw in the normal detailed safety procedures and checks, with neither unit taking full responsibility for the pipework. A “squeeze test” for line tightness would have revealed any open vents. However “the documented procedure covering this process … was simply not in place."

Total Lindsey Oil Refinery, of Eastfield Road North Killingholme in North Lincolnshire pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations. Commenting, Judge Daniel Curtis said: “There is no suggestion that safety...was generally disregarded by the defendant. The offence did not arise following...disregard of warnings from regulatory authorities; nor is it the case where safety has been deliberately sacrificed for profit or where there has been a deliberate flouting of the law." Nevertheless, the Judge felt the lapse to be so serious that the company was fined £400,000 with £15,794 costs.