OSHA Issues Bulletin on Process Used In Oil Refinery Operations

Sept. 2, 2003
A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin from OSHA in association with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aims to prevent chemical accidents by alerting workers about the hazards associated with delayed coker unit (DCU) operations a process used in refining crude oil.

"It is important that workers, employers, and emergency responders understand the fundamental hazards and risks associated with delayed coker units," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This bulletin provides practical advice on how to identify common hazards and how to minimize risk when working with this equipment."

"I am proud that EPA's partnership with OSHA is producing the kind of high-quality communication material that will help prevent chemical accidents and ensure protection of workers and citizens in nearby communities," added EPA Acting Administrator Marianne Lamont Horinko.

In recent years, DCU operations have resulted in a number of serious accidents despite efforts among many refiners to share best practices on safety and reliability. Unlike other types of petroleum refinery operations, the DCU involves both batch and continuous operations. The batch stage of the operation, which involves drum switching and coke cutting, presents unique hazards and is responsible for most of the serious accidents attributed to DCUs.

OSHA and EPA developed the new information bulletin to increase awareness of possible hazards due to the increasing importance of DCUs in meeting energy demands and the frequency and severity of serious accidents involving DCUs.

The bulletin targets the most significant hazards involving the coke drums large cylindrical metal vessels that can measure 120 feet tall and 29 feet in diameter. It also includes lessons learned and examples of actions that can be taken to help minimize risks associated with the situations and conditions that are most likely to cause accidents.

The bulletin also includes information on controlling hazards, including evaluating hazardous conditions, modifying operations to control hazards, actively maintaining an effective emergency response program, and familiarizing workers about risks and emergency procedures to help reduce serious incidents associated with DCU operations.

The bulletin is available at www.osha.gov and www.epa.gov.

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