Twenty years after the accident at Repsol that claimed nine lives: “It was a before and after in occupational risk prevention”

On August 14, 2003, an explosion at the Repsol Puertollano Industrial Complex shocked the mining population. At 8:15 a.m. that day, the 112 Emergency Service received the first call from a person warning of an explosion at the refinery.

The effect of the explosion of a tank spread to other nearby ones causing a large fire. It cost the lives of nine workers and another 17 people were injured of varying degrees.

The toxic cloud worried for days. Above all, after the collapse of the last fuel tanks and the great ball of fire over the Complex, according to the chronicles of the time. The alarms activated within the Internal Emergency Plan of the complex – first the general and then the partial – would last until August 22.

Jesús Camacho was at home that day. “I heard the noise, received a call from a colleague and we ran to the company.” He was a Repsol worker and provincial secretary of the CCOO in Ciudad Real.

The workers from the maintenance and masonry contracts were starting their jobs at that time. At that time, Repsol was carrying out works to expand the facilities. “The explosion caught them in the vans,” says Camacho, who is now retired and recounts how there was a real “stampede” of employees at the petrochemical complex.

It was, he says, a “logical” reaction because those who worked at the plant “knew that everything could go to hell. They wanted to be safe because there was a whole park of tanks and next to them spheres with butane and propane that could cause a shock wave. Fortunately they had a fire system.”

The fire lasted four days. More than 800 people worked on tasks to control and put out the fire. “The firefighters from the Madrid airport even came.” The Puertollano City Council decreed six days of mourning. Today the public television of Castilla-La Mancha, CMMedia, I remembered those days and the images of the terrible fire.

An internal and an external investigation were launched after the accident. In the conclusions of the internal investigation, the company attributed the accident to “human error”. The document said that it was produced by “undue accumulation” of gases in previous days, which ended up causing the explosion. It was pointed out that the “warnings and alarms” were ignored and that “the operational decisions to correct the accumulation of gases were not attended to or adopted, although the systems to detect the problem worked correctly”.

The unions rejected this version and did not get to sign the minutes of the internal investigation. “There was a lot of tension because there were divergent issues in the final conclusions,” explains Jesús Camacho.

The workers’ representatives had an impact on “technical aspects” such as the design of this complex, “identical” to those of A Coruña or Tarragona. “The liquefaction of gases could have been avoided in a first-rate facility that is so computerized”, he assures.

“Something abnormal that should not have happened”

In October 2003, Jesús Camacho would influence the causes of the accident in an article published in the ISTAS-CCOO Occupational Health magazine. In his opinion, the release of gases from a floating roof tank, designed and prepared to contain fuel, was “something abnormal that should not have happened” and he added that “the production unit at the head of the in a destabilized way without any head of the Production department or the center’s Management ordering the immediate stoppage”, assured this trade unionist and worker at the plant throughout his working life, recalling that weeks before the incident, failures had been detected in the productive chain.

He says it was “surprising that decisions had not been made to adequately separate light hydrocarbons from gasoline, thus avoiding their arrival in an atmospheric tank.” And it is that a container of these characteristics cannot accumulate a mass of pressurized gas “that raises its roof, tilts it and releases butane and other explosive gases that, when they find a hot spot, cause a deflagration.”

This is exactly what happened and two decades later he remembers how “at that time, large companies began to replace a large part of the workforce with external contractors.” He regrets that the union proposals for introducing “modern” occupational risk prevention regulations that also reached the workers subcontracted by Repsol-YPF were not heard because “the responsibilities and obligations of the companies were dispersed.”

The case was judicially archived in criminal proceedings in April 2005. Despite the fact that the family of one of the deceased, Juan de Dios García Piña, managed to reopen the case before the Provincial Court of Ciudad Real in October of that same year, it ended dissolving in the courts, beyond the compensation to the victims for a value of about 2.6 million euros.

It probably gave rise to one of the biggest conflicts that took place at the Puertollano plant. We had been trying to carry out a negotiation on subcontractors for some time and the accident accelerated it

Juan Antonio Mata
General Secretary of CCOO Castilla-La Mancha in 2003

Juan Antonio Mata was CCOO regional secretary in 2003. “I found out about the accident from an RNE journalist who called me when I was in the car with my wife and daughters, going on vacation to her native Malaga.

He was in Puertollano for more than three days. “It was terrible, the atmosphere was bleak. I arrived at half past five in the afternoon on the 14th. We were all scared by the risk to the population”.

Later, the concern was not only to investigate the causes or clarify responsibilities, but also to “establish agreed security measures for the future.” That autumn it was time to negotiate the working conditions of the workers of the fifty Repsol YPF contracts in Puertollano. The atmosphere was very tense after what happened in August.

On August 19, 2003, during a demonstration called by the UGT and CCOO, the then general secretaries of both unions, Cándido Méndez and José María Fidalgo, respectively, were booed in the mining city. In September the workers of more than fifty companies subcontracted by Repsol-YPF joined a strike called by both unions. In October, the company had to stop the plant that Alfonso Cortina presided over at the time.

Even the PSOE announced that it would promote a bill in the Congress of Deputies to regulate subcontracting, limit temporary employment and avoid workplace accidents.

“There was a lot of pressure from CEOE because what this negotiation was going to mean was a higher cost for the main company, in terms of the work bonuses that the metal companies or other auxiliary activities in the petrochemical complexes were going to have. The fact that tasks were being outsourced to reduce costs was going to be highlighted”, recalls Jesús Camacho.

“All of this probably gave rise to one of the biggest conflicts that took place at the Puertollano plant in the month of October. We had been trying to move forward with that negotiation for some time. In the region, steps are being taken to advance in occupational prevention, especially in areas with more risks such as industrial ones, and the accident not only accelerated it but also reinforced it”, adds Juan Antonio Mata.

Both trade unionists agree in defining the moment as “extremely hard”, although the agreement was reached in mid-November. “Today any worker who enters the complex has to go through mandatory security courses to sign a contract.” Jesús Camacho also points out that that accident “forced” to change the Foreign Emergency Plan of the petrochemical complex, which depended on public administrations, because it became clear that “it was in its infancy.”

A symbolic tribute sustained in the last two decades

In 2004, the Puertollano City Council discovered a commemorative plaque on Paseo de San Gregorio, in front of the emblematic Casa de Baños, with the motto ‘The citizens of Puertollano in memory of those who have given their lives working’.

Every August 14, nine roses are deposited in the place. One for each victim of that tragedy.

José Manuel is the current provincial secretary of CCOO Ciudad Real and explains that the objective of the symbolic gesture is that this is not forgotten. The accident caught him at his home in Almodóvar del Campo, just eight kilometers from the hydrocarbon plant. “I remember very well. I was expecting my first child. You could see the column of smoke and I experienced it like the rest of the population of Puertollano and its surroundings. Panic was widespread due to the dimensions of the fire.

Today he recalled in an act that he has always wanted to be “simple and intimate” that “the families of the deceased continue to suffer their absence. We send you our encouragement.”

He was blunt when recalling that this misfortune served to “raise awareness among managers of the importance of health for workers and that it is above any productive and economic result. That was progress.”

In his opinion, it was “a before and after in the prevention of accidents at work for contractors and subcontractors who enter the complex.” In fact, he believes that the advances in coordination for occupational health and safety issues have ended up being transferred to other companies.


Street Fighter 6: Nude Chun-Li Mod Appears In Official Tournament; a “small” accident that interrupted the entire event

Accidents happen anywhere, but sometimes these oversights reach the eyes of hundreds or even thousands of people, and the problem becomes bigger. This was the case recently with , the new fighting game from Capcom that is already shining in several official tournaments, although in this precise case, the game shone for a carelessness that caused laughter… and a bit of pity.

Everything seemed normal: two players were about to face each other in a game broadcast live, when surprising everyone, a mod installed in the game showed us Chun-Li completely naked; this was not the fault of the players, but of the organizer who did not previously review the version of the game that would be used in the tournament, although the penalty was shared by all.

The commentators couldn’t contain their laughter at the surprise, and obviously, the game quickly went off the air. Immediately afterwards, the tournament was interrupted while the problem was fixed, but as we know the internet world well, the moment was immortalized and shared on social networks. As an obvious warning, this scene is not suitable for minors, so if you decide to be curious, you are on your own.

Street Fighter 6: the triumphant return of the Capcom saga

Exceeding two million units sold in record time, it broke the curse of its predecessor launched in 2016 and aims to be one of the best Capcom games in its entire history. In our review, we tell you about the great taste that the game left us, displaying not only a great combat system that will cause addiction for years, but plenty of content for those who prefer to spend countless hours outside of online mode.

As for the competitive world, will shine soon at EVO 2023, the largest fighting game tournament (which will come with several surprises), with an impressive number of more than 7,000 registered participants in the Capcom game alone. Among so many fights waiting, let’s hope that the organizers take note of this accident with Chun-Li and do not embarrass the attendees.