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 2009.
Headed by former Hindustan Petroleum Corp chairman M.B. Lal, the seven-member panel, which looked 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, led to 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 and it was not for the panel to decide on who was to be blamed.
Asked specifically as to where the responsibility for non-compliance of the safety audit rested, he said “it is with IOC management.”