Human error led to fire at IOC`s Jaipur depot: Panel
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 02, 2010, 20:32
New Delhi: An expert group on Tuesday blamed human error for the devastating fire at Indian Oil Corp's fuel depot at Jaipur that killed 11 persons and injured 45 in October last year.

Headed by former Hindustan Petroleum Corp Chairman M B Lal, the seven-member committee, which went into the causes of the October 29 fire, blamed "gross negligence" for causing a leakage of petrol during transfer from storage tank and the subsequent fire that engulfed the entire depot.

The panel, which submitted its report to the government, glossed over the role of Oil Industry Safety Directorate (OISD), a government agency tasked with conduct of safety audits of oil installations and ensure compliance of its recommendations.

Lal said "non-observance of normal safe procedure" resulted in a 10-12 meter fountain of petrol spreading vapours over a 250 meter radius for 75 minutes before a spark caused by start of two-wheeler or kitchen within the radius, breaking out the fire.

An OISD audit had in 2003 pointed to deficiency in the offloading valve, OISD Executive Director J B Verma, who was part of the committee, said.

"The compliance report did not indicate any action on the deficiency pointed out and thereafter it was for IOC's internal audit, the latest done in February 2009, to ensure the installation complied with standard safety procedures," he said.

Lal said it was not in the committee's mandate to look at OISD audit compliance.

Lal said, it was not for the committee to decide on who was to be blamed for the fire.

Asked specifically as to where the responsibility for non-compliance of the safety audit rested, he said "it is with IOC management."

It was the duty of the board to ensure safety audits of its installations are conducted periodically and deficiencies and lacunae pointed out is addressed, he said.

The committee said petrol leaked from a valve, while it was being transfered from the storage tanks caused a huge leak as a jet of liquid at about 1810 hours on October 29, 2009.

For over 75 minutes the 'fountain' disbursed petrol vapours which had in the initial stage led to collapse of the attendant and the persons who went to help him.

"The basic or root causes were an absence of site specific written operating procedures, absence of leak stopping devices from a remote location and insufficient understanding of hazards and risks and consequences," he said.

The committee recommended automation of installations and remote operation of such facilities besides, periodic safety audits and their compliance. It also wanted OISD to be made an autonomous body, free from industry linkage.

"Further even after the leak started the "accident" could have been managed if safety measures provided in the Control Room were not made and kept defunct," Lal said.


First Published: Tuesday, February 02, 2010, 20:32

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