Gas commission highlights safety problems
By Chris Spindler
MELBOURNE — Witnesses at the royal commission to investigate the Longford gas disaster, in which two workers were killed and eight injured, have reported maintenance delays, poor communication and a lack of firefighting and safety equipment.
One witness claimed that the training of staff was often irrelevant and written procedures incomplete. The control room operator, Grant Cummings, said that in 17 years with Esso he was not directed to read the plant operating manuals or taught the critical minimum operating temperatures for equipment and how to avoid them.
The commission was told that a faulty valve that might have contributed to the explosion was left in disrepair for weeks despite warnings of its condition.
Esso also refused to appoint extra maintenance personnel which the Longford plant manager requested to tackle a backlog of maintenance work in late 1996 and early 1997.
The commission was told that firefighting at the plant stopped for an hour because the plant lacked the equipment needed for restocking water supplies.
Esso intends to run its own inquiry and has been criticised for not disclosing the names of the experts it intends to use. Esso is mounting a legal challenge against moves by the government to force it to disclose the names.