An investigation into the cause of a Gibraltar port explosion last May has uncovered a litany of alleged physical faults and management shortfalls at the sullage plant operated by Nature Port Reception Facilities [Nature], including claims that storage tanks were heavily corroded and badly maintained.
Investigators from specialist company Capita Symonds attributed the explosion to holes in the roof of tanks used to store petroleum products, which allowed highly flammable vapor to escape.
The tank rooftops were dotted with 60 perforations caused by long term corrosion, the investigation found.
Two men welding on top of one of the tanks caused the vapor to ignite, resulting in the explosion.
The investigators also found evidence that, in their view, suggested serious flaws in the way the plant was operated.
They described “significant departures” from good health and safety procedures in a facility of this type, with management policies and procedures lacking sufficient detail.
“In the light of these findings, the suspension of Nature Port’s licence will not be lifted until a final decision is taken with regard to that licence after due process has been followed and all the material facts and issues considered,” the Gibraltar Government, which commissioned the investigation, said in a statement.
“The deficiencies, failings and shortcomings found in the report, and the extent to which they may have been remedied or be capable of remedy are material factors.”
The investigations undertaken by Capita Symonds examined the causes of the incident, the adequacy of the plant operator’s management systems and health and safety and accident management procedures and plans, and the condition of the tanks and plant.
The investigation found evidence that although the poor physical condition of the tanks was noted in 2008 during a survey by a local structural and engineering company, repairs had not been carried out.
The 2008 inspection also recommended annual surveys to ensure the structural integrity of the tanks but the investigators said they found no evidence that Nature had acted on the advice.
David Hughes, a health and safety consultant who formed part of the Capita Symonds team, wrote that “…, from routine inspection by a competent surveyor, any potentially affected areas should be easily detected and repaired by suitable means.”
“The areas on the two tank roofs will have been affected by corrosion and perforations which would have been visible many years prior to the incident of 31 May 2011, and thus readily discoverable by routine survey.”
Mr Hughes also noted that the plant was licensed to operate by the Environment Agency but that there was no evidence that the agency regularly inspected the facility.
The investigator found that even though the repairs to the tanks recommended in 2008 had not been carried out, Nature was granted a petroleum licence in November 2009 allowing it to handle products with a very low flashpoint.
Read More – SOURCE: http://www.chronicle.gi/headlines_details.php?id=23266