“Like all major hazard facilities in Victoria, this plant needs a licence from WorkSafe to operate,” Executive Director for Health and Safety Ian Forsyth said.

“By putting a condition on the licence, we’re requiring Esso to ramp up its safety program, and provide an extra level of assurance to WorkSafe that they’re on top of safety issues,” he said.

WorkSafe has placed a condition on Esso’s licence following four separate incidents since December 2008, where corroded pipelines have caused crude oil or gas to leak.

The most recent incident was last August, when WorkSafe issued two safety improvement notices to Esso after a crude oil leak.

“These events have raised concerns about the effectiveness of Esso’s maintenance of pipes and related structures at Longford,” Mr Forsyth said.

“We don’t want to be dealing with pipe maintenance issues on a piecemeal basis – we want assurance from Esso that they’re across the issue and are putting specific steps in place to deal with it,” he said.

The licence condition requires Esso to carry out the following work by July 2011:

  • Demonstrate that improved pipeline maintenance means the risk of corrosion and leakage is reducing.
  • Analyse past corrosion incidents, and identify any trends in these incidents.
  • Identify measures to stop further incidents from occurring.
  • Develop a plan to implement these measures.

WorkSafe will seek proof that the condition has been met through written evidence and inspections.

“Victoria’s regulation of major hazard facilities is the strongest in the country,” Mr Forsyth said.

“WorkSafe’s technical inspectors carry out annual in-depth inspections of every major hazard facility in Victoria, as well as two or three visits between every inspection – in addition to the longer-term work we do with individual facilities.

“The local community deserves the assurance that these issues are being properly managed,” he said.

Background:

All Victorian Major Hazard Facilities (MHFs) must hold a licence, issued by WorkSafe Victoria, in order to operate.

When applying for a licence, an MHF has to submit a detailed safety case to WorkSafe. WorkSafe’s technical assessors and inspectors assess the application, and a licence panel makes a decision on whether to issue a licence.

MHFs are required to report safety incidents to WorkSafe. These include the escape, spillage or leakage of any substance that exposes a person in the immediate vicinity to an immediate risk.