ONE OF Britain’s biggest unions has claimed that a “major incident” at Fawley refinery involved the collapse of a 100-tonne platform.
Unite, which represents some of the 2,500 workers employed at the site, says someone could easily have been killed when the structure gave way.
Workers have been told the incident involved a leak of liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and resulted in part of the refinery being sealed off.
As reported in the Daily Echo, the events of November 8 caused widespread concern among people living in the Fawley and Blackfield area.
Two flares at the huge petro-chemical complex could be seen for miles around and were even visible from aircraft flying over the area.
In a statement issued at the time ExxonMobil said: “Earlier this evening we experienced an operational issue on one of our units. Our own on-site teams are responding and working to address the situation and isolate the unit in question.
“We are using our flares, which are part of our standard safety and operational procedures, to assist with this work.”
Unite regional organizer Malcolm Bonnett emailed the refinery the next day and demanded an explanation.
He said: “What is going on at Fawley? This is a major incident and it’s being treated like a stroll in the park. Extremely lucky no one was killed.”
The incident involved the catalytic cracker, which helps convert crude oil into high-octane petrol.
An internal memo sent to Fawley staff on November 9 said: “Yesterday we experienced an LPG leak in the area of the CAT Plant.
“Our onsite response teams moved quickly to address this and safely isolated the unit. There were no injuries and the incident is fully under control.
“As a precaution, a 250m exclusion zone is in place around the area. Outside of this precautionary zone, there are no site access restrictions and work can be conducted as required.
“A number of associated units have been shut down, and work is underway to assess the requirements to bring them back online.”
An HSE spokesperson told the Daily Echo: “HSE inspectors have attended the site and an investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
Asked about the reported collapse of a 100-tonne platform an ExxonMobil spokesperson said: “ExxonMobil Fawley has its own large and skilled workforce who are ensuring continued safe operations.
“We apply rigorous safety standards and adhere to all applicable laws.
“We continue to encourage the trade unions and employers to work together to quickly resolve this matter.”
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