Petrol Leak Enforcement (Britain)

A company which distributes fuel across a national network of pipelines has been fined after 35,000 litres of unleaded petrol erupted from pipework due to a joint failure.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive determined the fuel, which escaped under high pressure and rained down on the site, could have resulted in a major fire and possible explosion. The leak also led to a significant clean-up operation, including the specialist decontamination of land.

HSE found that the pipework involved had been reconfigured and replaced as part of a major engineering project finished a week before. However, before being put to use the joints and fittings were not properly commissioned and tested.

British Pipeline Agency Ltd, of Alexandra Road, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was fined £30,000 with costs of £58,606 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing HSE inspector Alex Nayar said:

“This was a very serious incident with the potential to be extremely dangerous. It was also one that could have been avoided very simply.

“When plant is changed or modified it has to be tested and commissioned before being put into operation. That did not happen. If done properly it could have identified the fault.

“The leak posed two major hazards, a fire or a vapour cloud explosion. It is extremely fortunate that neither happened in this case as the outcome could have been much worse.”

The HSE press release is here.

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