OSHA: Violations Show BP 'Failed to Learn from the Lessons of Texas City'

A little over a year since explosions leveled parts of BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery and killed 15 workers, OSHA has hit BP Products North America with a multi-million-dollar fine for alleged safety violations similar to the ones the agency found in Texas City.

OSHA has fined BP $2.4 million after an inspection at the company's Oregon, Ohio, refinery identified a number of alleged violations similar to those found during the agency's investigation of the March 23, 2005, incident in Texas City, which also left 170 workers injured.

For the Texas City incident, OSHA fined BP $21.4 million and cited the company for 300 violations. The case also is being examined by the Department of Justice, which is weighing the possibility of filing criminal charges against BP.

"It is extremely disappointing that BP Products failed to learn from the lessons of Texas City to assure their workers' safety and health," OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. said. "Our Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) exists for companies like this who, despite our enforcement and outreach efforts, ignore their obligations under the law and continually place their employees at risk."

Violations Include Locating People in Vulnerable Buildings

OSHA's Toledo area office launched an inspection at the Ohio refinery in response to an alert issued by the agency under the EEP.

The inspection resulted in 32 per-instance willful citations, which carry penalties of more than $2.2 million. OSHA cited BP for allegedly:

  • Locating people in vulnerable buildings among the processing units;
  • Failing to correct de-pressurization deficiencies;
  • Failing to correct deficiencies with gas monitors; and
  • Failing to prevent the use of non-approved electrical equipment in locations in which hazardous concentrations of flammable gases or vapors may exist.

BP was fined an additional $140,000 for two willful violations. The company, according to OSHA, neglected to develop shutdown procedures and designate responsibilities and failed to establish a system to promptly address and resolve recommendations made after an incident when a large feed pump failed.

Three years later those recommendations still had not been implemented, according to the agency.

Another $35,000 in penalties was issued for five serious violations, including BP's alleged failure to:

  • Develop operating procedures for a unit that removes sulfur compound;
  • Ensure that operating procedures reflect current operating practice in the isocracker unit;
  • Resolve process hazard analysis recommendations;
  • Resolve process safety management compliance audit items in a timely manner; and
  • Periodically inspect pressure piping systems.

BP Will Seek Informal Settlement

BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappell said the company is taking immediate steps to rectify the problems at the Oregon, Ohio, facility, adding that the majority of the issues identified during the inspection already have been corrected.

"Our goal is to make the refinery as safe as we possibly can," Chappell said. "We are disappointed by the citations. We disagree with the substance and characterization of many of the alleged violations."

Chappelle said BP will be seeking an informal settlement with the agency. The company also has the right to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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