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Buncefield explosion and fire - 11 December 2005

The following table charts the activities to date carried out by HSE and other members of the COMAH Competent Authority (CA) to learn any lessons from the investigation into the Buncefield fuel depot incident.

Date MIIB Reports COMAH Competent Authority (CA) Action

11 December 2005


Explosion and fire at Buncefield fuel storage depot devastates the site and surrounding area. The CA arrives on site the following day to provide advice and expertise to the emergency services on request and to begin the investigation process.

15 December 2005


Fire extinguished and site handed over to the CA.

16 December 2005


HSE serves two prohibition notices to ensure that work on site is carried out safely as there still remains much damaged plant and pools of fuel and other chemicals. As the investigation on the ground starts in earnest, the initial priority for the investigation team is to secure evidence, examine electronic records and interview key witnesses in order to identify the cause of the incident. The information would also be used to learn any lessons to ensure the safe operation of other fuel depots.

20 December 2005


The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) directed HSE and EA to investigate the incident and asked for an independent Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) to supervise the investigation. Lord Newton of Braintree was asked to chair the Board.

21 February 2006

1st Progress Report from Investigation Manager to MIIB published.

CA issues Safety Alert. Acting on issues emerging in the MIIB’s first report the CA requires operators of 108 fuel depots to review a range of aspects of their operations and report their findings to HSE by April. To back this up CA inspectors visited each of the sites to check progress in the following months.

March 2006


HSE starts to review the basis upon which it offers advice on Land Use Planning issues to Planning Authorities. Consultation on potential revisions currently scheduled to start late January 2007

11 April 2006

2 nd Progress Report from Investigation Manager to MIIB published


9 May 2006

3 rd Progress Report from Investigation Manager to MIIB published


13 June 2006


HSE publishes initial feedback from the Safety Alert follow up. The review finds a generally good level of compliance although five sites fall below the appropriate standards – as a result enforcement notices are served on three of these. The review indicates that there is a need to strengthen aspects of current guidance. A Task Group comprising industry, trade association and employee representatives as well as the CA is established to do this. The CA provides regulatory oversight and direction to ensure enhanced safety standards are developed and implemented to further improve major accident prevention as quickly as possible.

HSE will publish the final report of the findings of the Safety Alert review in early 2007, together with the relevant report from the EA and SEPA.

4 July 2006


HSE issues a further Safety Alert following information received from the MIIB during the course of its investigation about the workings of a tank level safety system. The safety issue has now been addresses at all relevant sites.

13 July 2006

MIIB Initial report published


12 October 2006


The Joint CA/Industry Task Group publishes interim guidance covering eight key action points to improve standards. The actions to be implemented at the 60 sites storing/handling petrol in similar circumstances to Buncefield. HSE is monitoring industry’s progress closely to ensure the enhanced safety standards are in place by the agreed dates, which range from January to June 2007.

The Task Group will make final recommendations by mid-2007, which will take account of further information from the MIIB as it arises.