The FCCU fire, which occurred on 10th June 2000, affected plant and pipework which was insulated with asbestos lagging. Some asbestos was released during the course of the fire.
As part of their initial response to the incident, the HSE instructed BP to take action to prevent further spread of asbestos, and to control access to the potentially contaminated area. (The latter was part of a legal notice to leave the area undisturbed which was issued to BP on 10th June.) BP, in response, implemented a scheme of thorough wetting of the area and restricted access to the site to people wearing suitable PPE.
Subsequently, and following public concern about the possibility of asbestos contamination which was expressed at local meetings, the HSE carried out specific investigations into the management of asbestos on the site, and into the spread of asbestos and potential exposure arising from the fire. The latter investigation involved the Health and Safety Laboratory in Sheffield who carried out a series of tests on the effects that fire and heat have on asbestos, and on the probable dispersion mechanisms for asbestos materials in fires.
With regard to the management of asbestos, the investigation revealed that BP had written policies and procedures to address hazards associated with the use of asbestos. However the HSE concluded that BP’s procedures could be improved. A legal notice was issued specifying the matters requiring attention. BP has further developed their system of asbestos management to meet all the recommendations made by the HSE.
With regard to the spread of asbestos, the investigation concluded that the majority of the asbestos that was released was deposited in the area in the immediate vicinity of the FCCU. It also concluded that asbestos had not been released in significant quantities over a wider area. In addition the investigation concluded that any risk to health from airborne asbestos exposure for members of the public and personnel on the site as a result of the FCCU fire was negligible.
The detailed findings from HSL’s research into the effects of fire on asbestos materials are to be published in a separate report addressing the wider issue of fire in relation to managing asbestos in premises.