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Foreward - A message from Dan Mitchell, Head of Land Division, Health and Safety Executive

In response to public concern over the series of three major incidents at the BP Grangemouth Petrochemical Complex during May/June 2000 a commitment was given to produce a report summarising the Competent Authority’s investigation.  This report could not be published until the completion of legal proceedings for criminal offences. On 18th January 2002 BP Chemicals Limited and BP Oil Grangemouth Refinery Limited were each convicted of an offence under the Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. BP Chemicals Limited were fined £250,000 and BP Oil Grangemouth Refinery Limited were fined £750,000. This reflected the seriousness that the courts hold for failings in controlling major hazard risks. 

The Health and Safety Executive and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency jointly carried out the investigation under the COMAH Regulations where they operate as the joint Competent Authority.  The Health and Safety Executive led the investigation team as safety issues predominated.

The Competent Authority believes it is important that the public in Grangemouth are openly informed of the way major hazard sites are regulated, of the investigations conducted and actions taken to improve health, safety and environmental performance on-site.  It is also important that the chemical and oil refining industries learn the lessons from these three incidents and take the necessary measures to minimise the number of major accidents.

Recent work reviewing thirty years of "Large Property Damage Losses in the Hydrocarbon-Chemical Industries" published by Marsh provides a number of lessons for this major hazard industry and also shows that there was little new in the events leading to the BP Grangemouth incidents.

The Health and Safety Commission Strategic Plan for 2001-2004 details the initiatives underway by the Health and Safety Executive and challenges all who have an interest in the industry to ‘revitalise health and safety’.  For COMAH sites the plan sets the challenge for the industry, its advisors, and the Competent Authority to work together to reduce the number of major accidents by 20% by 2004.

Of a total of nine refineries operated in the UK overall three have had major accidents of sufficient seriousness to require notification to the European Commission in the space of one year. Only good fortune prevented workplace and public casualties from the Grangemouth incidents. Industry must not become complacent about the risks posed by major accident hazards.

BP comprises one of the world’s largest group of companies and has committed itself to being a leader in health, safety and environmental management and performance both in the UK and worldwide. Their policy "Getting HSE Right (GHSER)" represents good business practice and corporate governance of risk.  We welcome this commitment from BP.

In response to the incidents BP formed a BP Task Force to carry out a "root and branch" audit, the largest ever assembled in the company’s history.

The Competent Authority's investigation was complex and wide ranging extending beyond the plant and installations to human factors and safety culture.  It was started immediately following the first of the three incidents and continued until legal proceedings were successfully completed.

The recommendations arising from the Competent Authority investigation closely aligned with those of BP’s Task Force. BP has committed substantial resources to implement all these recommendations.

Since the incidents occurred there has been a sustained improvement in operational performance across the Complex. Work is continuing to maintain the momentum and is being integrated into the on-going business process.

The Competent Authority is committed to following up the recommendations in this report through our inspections and we will track the remedial action taken to ensure that BP’s improved performance is sustained.

We would welcome any feedback from you on the investigation and this report. Email to dan.mitchell@hse.gov.uk.

2013-02-06