Health and safety bosses have said that risk assessments for school trips to Mossmorran must be improved – but the visits won’t be banned.
The long-standing trips, which have run for over 15 years, became an issue after Mossmorran Action Group branded them “a dangerous stunt.”
That led to the Ecology Centre in Kinghorn, which provided tutors for the classes, terminating its links with plant operators, ExxonMobil.
Now the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said assessments need to be improved, and visits need to be “appropriately managed.”
It studied risk assessment forms from Fife Council which were generic, and did not take into account Mossmorran’s status as a top-tier Comah – Control of Major Accident Hazards – site.
It has advised the local authority, and Mossmorran’s operators, to review and update communications in planning any school trips, and ensure there are clear instructions in place for what to do in the event of a major incident.
David Glass, HSE mechanical engineering team leader, said: ““We would expect risks to be kept under review by the site operator and consideration given to postponing such activities if necessary.
“HSE would not discourage visits as long as the risks are appropriately managed.”
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Stuart Neill, external affairs manager for ExxonMobil said: “We welcome the HSE’s considered comments.
“We have safely run our environmental pond programme for over 15 years and have seen more than 20,000 local school children benefit from this insight to environmental science.
“We will embrace any recommendations from the HSE that help to further strengthen our risk assessment process.”
Councillor Linda Holt, a long-standing critic of ExxonMobil’s operations at Mossmorran, called for an apology from the local authority for not responding to her concerns over the visits.
She said: ““ExxonMobil and Fife Council have shown a frightening level of complacency by insisting - against HSE advice - that a classroom teacher’s generic risk assessment offers children visiting Mossmorran adequate protection.
“Since early summer, publicly and privately, I have raised parents’ concerns about their children visiting Mossmorran with council officers and the co-leaders. “Time and again, my concerns about poor generic risk assessments and a lack of information for parents, especially given the dangers presented by a gas leak at the time, were met with denial and waved away as scare-mongering.
“Now because a concerned parent complained to HSE, the regulator has told Fife Council in no uncertain terms that their risk assessments are not good enough and they can no longer keep parents in the dark.” She added: “Fife Council owes me, Mossmorran Action Group and parents who have been rightly worried about the safety of their children on school trips to Mossmorran an apology. It is the height of irresponsibility to say that because nothing has happened on a trip up to now, the plant is perfectly safe.”
She said the public had “lost confidence” in ExxonMobil, and added: “Fife Council should be very careful about making the same mistake.”