Final report published by the Buncefield investigation board

A major report into the 2005 Buncefield explosion was published in December, largely wrapping up a three-year investigation into Europe’s largest peacetime fire.1

The report summarises the work of the major incident investigation board, which was convened in the weeks following the incident near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire. It restates the board’s previous conclusions and recommendations on the design of fuel storage sites, emergency preparedness and land use planning around major hazard sites.

One new element is an assessment of economic costs, which approach £1 billion. These were largely incurred by BP, Shell, Total UK and Chevron, the owners of the three neighbouring oil storage sites that were destroyed.

Despite its label as a final report, it will not be the last word on the disaster. Further research needs to be conducted as to why the main explosion was so overwhelmingly violent. Rather than being centred among the fuel storage tanks, it was generated in a cloud of fuel vapour that drifted over a nearby car park.

The Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency form the joint regulator for major hazard sites. They will produce a final report on the disaster following the conclusion of the criminal prosecution of five companies involved in the incident (ENDS Report 407, p 9 ).

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