Crude awakening for Ineos
Published: 22 Jul 2011
The operators of Grangemouth refinery have been fined £100,000 after an uncontrolled release of crude oil from a pipeline at the site on the Firth of Forth in May 2008.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which was helped by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) during the investigation, said a pipeline containing crude oil became over-pressurised as a result of a process known as thermal expansion. The pipeline therefore failed causing extremely flammable crude oil to spray out across a nearby pumphouse and adjacent pipelines containing other dangerous substances. Investigators found that operators Ineos were aware of the risks from thermal expansion but chose to rely on staff to manually drain crude oil from the pipeline instead of installing engineering controls.
Falkirk Sheriff Court heard that crude oil drained from a pipeline was stored in a metal skip, not designed for the safe storage of an extremely flammable substance, so the risk of fire and explosion was increased.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Brian Kennedy said, "The crude oil involved in this incident was extremely flammable and had the potential to result in serious injury had there been a fire or explosion. Despite having recognised the need for engineered thermal relief on their crude oil pipelines following an incident at their refinery a year earlier, Ineos chose instead to rely on a manual system for managing thermal expansion. This system of work actually increased the risk of fire and explosion and ultimately failed to prevent the pipeline from becoming over-pressurised."
Ineos co-operated fully with the investigation and have issued a number of recommendations to prevent a similar incident re-occuring in the future.
Published: 22 Jul 2011
A packaging firm has been fined £90,000 after two workers became engulfed in a fireball at their Cumbrian-based factory. Gordon Metcalf, 62, and another worker were about to clean debris from a damaged fuse box when a ball of fire shot out, setting their clothes alight.
Innovia Films Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into the cause of the fire at the plant in 2006. Carlisle Crown Court heard that doctors thought Mr Metcalf was unlikely to survive due to the extent of his injuries. He is still undergoing treatment for his burns, nearly five years on, and will never be able to return to work. His colleague's injuries were less severe and he has now been able to find employment.
The HSE investigation found that there had been a fire in the fuse box during the previous afternoon but live cables had been routed through it so the cooling equipment at the factory could continue to operate. This meant the company, which has production sites in the UK, USA, Belgium and Australia, avoided having to shut down the plant for 36 hours to reset the machines.
When electrician Gordon Metcalf and his colleague, an apprentice electrician, came into work the following morning they were asked to remove the debris from the fuse box and plate over the front to prevent access. The court was told that a suitable risk assessment had not been carried out for the work, and that management at the company had allowed it to go ahead without the electricity supply being isolated.
Mr Metcalf suffered burns to 47 per cent of his body. He spent four weeks in a coma, was in intensive care for six weeks and in hospital for five months. He said, "I remember the fireball just knocking me backwards, and I split my head open. I managed to get downstairs to some water, and only realised I was on fire when I saw my arm on the handrail. When I came out of hospital, I had to wear a suit over my head and body for a year and could only take it off to wash. I still have to apply cream three times a day to stop the scarring getting any worse."
Mark Dawson, HSE Principal Inspector for Cumbria, said, "It was an astonishing decision to allow work to go ahead without the live electricity supply being switched off, and even went against the company's own work procedures. If the factory had been shut down for just a day and a half then neither of the workers would have suffered severe burns."
Innovia Films Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers' lives at risk. The company was ordered to pay £26,790 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine of £90,000.
CRC scheme to be simplified?
Published: 19 Jul 2011
This month the Government announced a number of proposed amendments to the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order SI 2010/768, in a move which is likely to be welcomed by many participants.
The amendments include details on the following.
Fixed price sale allowances
From Phase 2 (1 April 2013) there will be two fixed prices for sales of allowances and there will no longer be any cap or auction. The sale at the beginning of the year (where participants forecast their energy usage) will have lower priced allowances than those sold in the sale at the end of the year.
Participants will no longer need to predict their usage or develop auctioning strategies.
The organisational rules have been simplified so that CRC compliance will more closely follow natural business units. For example, participants will be able to disaggregate business units which are not large enough to qualify in their own right, as well as those which result in the parent falling below the CRC qualification threshold.
The rules relating to trusts will also be amended so the scheme will allocate responsibility to those with a genuine commercial interest in the property and use.
There are no changes planned to the landlord/tenant rule, but the Government is considering whether there should be an exception where a tenant builds a structure on land owned by a landlord, the landlord supplies the energy but the tenant is the sole occupant and is responsible for its maintenance.
Qualification and administration
By 2012, once the first reporting and auditing cycle has been completed, the Government will review the procedure with the aim of reducing the administration burden on participants.
The qualification criteria will be simplified so that only electricity through settled half hourly meters will be taken into account. In addition, the criteria for the performance league tables will be taken out of legislation and placed into guidance.
Out of the 29 fuels originally covered by the scheme, only electricity, gas, diesel and kerosene will now be included.
Draft legislative proposals are expected to be available for consultation in early 2012. In the meantime, the Government is inviting comments on the proposed amendments, to be made by 2 September 2011.
Not what the Avon ordered
Published: 19 Jul 2011
A Bakery firm from Evesham has been fined £23,500 and ordered to pay costs of £7,950 after an oil leak at their premises polluted up to two miles of the River Avon.
The Environment Agency were called to a report of large amounts of oil on the River Avon in June 2010. They then placed a pollution control boom on the river to contain the spill, and later confirmed that the oil had come from Dawn Foods Limited.
The bakery firm reported to the Environment Agency that approximately 5,000 litres of rapeseed oil had leaked from their tank, with around 800 litres of that finding its way into the River Avon after a bund that was in place around the tank failed to contain the leak.
Environment Agency officers had noted that the leak came from a flexible pipe attached to the storage tank. The pipe was, however, fixed in place with a jubilee clip that came loose; the use of which is not an industry recognised practice. The oil then entered the company's surface water drains and eventually ended up in the River.
An Environment Agency spokesperson said "This incident could have been avoided if the company had properly considered the environmental risks associated with their business activities. Dawn Foods Limited had poor knowledge of their own site drainage. They did not have a plan of what to do in the event of a spillage at the site and unfortunately this resulted in the pollution incident".
However, when passing the sentence on Dawn Foods Limited, Worcester Magistrates Court took into account the fact that the firm cooperated fully with the Environment Agency, had pleaded guilty early, had no previous convictions and had paid the costs for the clean-up.
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Smells like big Biffa fine
Published: 15 Jul 2011
Residents near the Houghton Quarry landfill in Sunderland will be pleased to hear that action has finally been taken against the waste disposal company responsible for the persistent odours emitting from the landfill.
One of the country's largest waste disposal companies, Biffa Waste Services Ltd, was fined £27,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,250 when it was prosecuted at Sunderland Magistrates Court for failing to comply with its environmental permit.
Paul Harley, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, told the court how on 28 February 2008, the company was sent a warning letter because bad odours were evident beyond the site boundary.
Biffa Waste Services Ltd is permitted by the the Environment Agency to operate Houghton Quarry as a non-hazardous waste landfill site, provided that emissions from the landfill do not cause odour problems at a level that could cause a nuisance locally.
In February and March of 2010, the Environment Agency was called out to the landfill site following complaints from local residents of 'pungent' smells. The Environment Agency officer found that odours were coming from excavation works on site.
Mr Harley told the court that Biffa had failed on both occasions to use appropriate measures to avoid the escape of odours from the site. The wastes should, and could, have been covered with either a temporary membrane or a layer of soil to suppress the odour.
In a statement, Biffa said: "Biffa is committed to operating all waste facilities to high standards in order to ensure the continued protection of the environment and therefore apologises for the situation which led to this prosecution."
Joyce Dixon, 86, sat through the hearing and said afterwards: "We have suffered throughout the years and it has been hell. We are happy that they have been brought to court."
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Mercury export and data
Published: 14 Jul 2011
Mercury export and data
The Mercury Export and Data (Enforcement) Regulations SI 2010/265 began to come into force on 8 March 2010 and provide for the enforcement and management of Regulation (EC) 1102/2008, on banning metallic mercury exports and certain mercury mixtures, and storing metallic mercury safely.
Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans and wildlife and have had an undesirable impact on human health and the environment. The EU has acknowledged that action is needed to provide protection from mercury releases, and in 2005 adopted a "Community Strategy Concerning Mercury" to reduce mercury supply and demand.
In order to reduce the problems posed by mercury, the UK agreed in October 2008 to adopt Regulation (EC) 1102/2008, which bans metallic mercury exports (including some mercury compounds) and makes sure its stored safely. Although the obligations in the Regulation directly apply in the UK, the Government is required to put in place domestic legislation to effectively enforce and manage those obligations.