Refinery Safety Scrutinized

Aug. 10, 2007
New federal program aims to reduce refinery mishaps.

Fatal refinery explosions in the past several years have prompted the federal government to implement an inspection program to eliminate hazardous-materials-related accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a national emphasis program to ensure refineries are complying with federal hazardous chemicals standards. Each state with refineries is encouraged to participate in the program but is not required.

According to OSHA, since the federal Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard was implemented in 1992, the petroleum industry has incurred the most fatal or catastrophic incidents related to hazardous chemicals. OSHA cites three incidents in particular in the past three years, which include an explosion in March 2005 at the BP America Refinery in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 employees and injured another 170, a refinery accident in January 2005 at the Kern Oil Refinery in Bakersfield, Calif., that killed one employee and caused multiple injuries to other employees, and a 2004 incident at the Giant Industries Ciniza Refinery near Gallup, N.M., that resulted in six injuries and another four employees being hospitalized with serious burns.

Under the program, OSHA plans to conduct 81 inspections throughout the next two years.

By The Numbers: Chemical Accidents
Handling Hazmat

"The safest way to transport hazmat is to not trransport it."

-- Don Weintritt, global supply chain director, Dow Chemical Co.
Hazardous chemicals incidents at refineries since 1992:

36 fatality/catastrophic incidents related to hazardous chemicals releases

52 Employee deaths related to fatality/catastrophic incidents

250 Employee injuries related to fatality/catastrophic incidents

98 Injuries that resulted in hospitalization from fatality/catastrophic incidents

Source: OSHA

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