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1 Jan 1970

Total Oil Liable for Buncefield Explosion

The question of liability for the Buncefield oil fire has been decided at the High Court.

The case concerned the dispute between Total and Chevron over who was responsible for the negligence that led to the explosion and fires that devastated the site and local buildings in the Hemel Hempstead area. The depot was being run at the time by Hertfordshire Oil Storage Ltd (HOSL) - a 60/40 joint venture between Total - as majority owner - and Chevron.

Total could face claims of more than 750 million pounds for damage to property caused by what was described by the media as Britain's biggest peacetime explosion.
The expolsion in December 2005 which injured 43 people, measured 2.4 on the ricther scale and caused widespread damage over a 450-metre area of Hertfordshire
It was caused by the ignition of a huge vapour cloud, formed from the spillage of 300 tonnes of petrol from the top of one of the storage tanks. A major contributory factor was the failure of safety instrumented systems controlling alarms and valve systems.
The explosion has motivated the HSE and other stakeholders in the process industry in the UK to re-visit guidance on safety issues relating to explosive atmospheres and to safety instrumented systems. Regulation in focus include the ATEX directives and EN IEC 61508 relating to the implementation of functional safety management systems.

The ATEX Directives -1994/09/EC & 1999/92/EC are the basis of an extensive and complex, portfolio of the European legislation framework. Organisations must assess the risks arising from explosive atmospheres, develop and maintain an Explosion Protection Document, classify Hazardous Areas and implement the required Explosion Protection Measures to protect workers from explosive atmospheres. Organisations also face the challenge of maintaining the highest level of safety while ensuring minimum cost.

Pilz services can be customised to suit your organisational needs. We are experts in safety engineering and safety legislation and will ensure your compliance with the relevant directives and national standards by providing you with turn-key solutions in the following areas:
Explosion Protection Document
Explosion Risk Assessment
Hazardous Area Classification
Design of Risk Reduction Measures
Installation of mechanical and electrical systems within ATEX Hazardous Areas

For a preliminary discussion on your process safety needs, contact us on 021 4346535 or email


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