Across the process industries, both on and offshore, a key focus is upon maintaining primary containment. Primary containment refers to keeping flammable and toxic materials inside plant items such as vessels, tanks and pipework. Loss of primary containment can result in fires, explosions and toxic releases with the potential to harm workers, the offsite public and the environment.
The Buncefield explosion and fires in 2005 resulted from a Loss of Containment (LoC) due to the overfilling of a fuel storage tank. Fortunately, in this case there were no fatalities, but the incident caused an estimated £1Bn of damage to the economy. In many of these events there is the potential for large numbers of fatalities. The incident at a pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal, India in 1984 resulted from LoC of a toxic material which affected many people offsite and caused the death of thousands of people both immediately and over the longer term.
Smaller LoC events and those where no harm occurred are considered precursor events to major accidents. Accordingly, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and others investigate and record a wide range of LoC events together with their causation and circumstances.