Do you know the obligations and risks of storing fuel on your sites?

By Aaron Robinson, Design and BIM Manager, Adler and Allan and Simon Tilling, Partner, Burges Salmon

Aaron Robinson, Design and BIM Manager, Adler and Allan and Simon Tilling, Partner, Burges Salmon, discuss the legal obligations of keeping fuel on your site, outlining the implications of a spill and the importance of having an adequate emergency response plan in place.

If you store fuel on your site, do you know your responsibilities in both spill prevention on your sites and reacting to any breaches that occur? For example, you are legally obliged to keep fuel and its related assets in top condition and have an emergency response plan in place.

Not only can site owners and any employees or contractors tasked with facilities management be held personally liable in a criminal court for spills, non-compliance with legislative obligations can generate massive downtime at your site, huge fines and multiple private claims.

And all that doesn’t even factor in the potentially ruinous costs of containment, clean-up and remediation that polluters must always shoulder - or the substantial PR damage they invariably suffer in the wake of an incident.

Fuel storage tanks should be inspected annually according to the Oil Storage Regulations. Legally, the overall responsibility for all storage facilities falls to the owner, including ensuring that these annual inspections and their subsequent maintenance requirements are adhered to.

Steps should be taken to protect tanks and pipework against corrosion and physical damage. Pipes below ground need visible inspection hatches, while those above ground should be supported, using brackets, for example. Wherever possible, it is advisable to avoid underground pipework, in order to prevent the contamination of groundwater.

Apart from the tanks themselves, the Fuel Storage Regulations cover separators, bunds and associated pipe work, with standards set and enforced by the Environment Agency.

Separators in particular, are essential for avoiding pollution. If left unchecked, they can become blocked and their filters saturated, creating a flooding risk or causing polluted water to contaminate the local environment. Ignoring the state of your separators could result in hefty fines and prosecution. Environment Agency and EN standard EN858-2 states that separators should be serviced at least twice a year.

The Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regime may also apply to sites handling or storing dangerous substances above certain thresholds.

It is also a legal requirement for those with fuel on their sites to have an emergency response plan in place. This preparedness audit is a prescribed, managed procedure for containing and controlling spill incidents and is designed to minimise the harmful ecological effects and limit danger to people, properties and businesses.

No matter how responsibly owners of sites behave, no absolute guarantee of preventing a contamination incident is possible.

However, the more they can demonstrate that they always acted reasonably and legally; were always on top of permit demands and relevant legislation and had a viable emergency response plan in place, the easier it will be to assure the courts and regulatory bodies that they weren’t reckless, negligent or deliberately harmful.

Working with an environmental risk reduction specialist like Adler and Allan with a working knowledge of environmental law will give you peace of mind of knowing your risks and being prepared when an incident does occur.

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Stopping a spill from entering a drain