OSHA Refinery Audit Exposes Massive Violations

OSHA's nation-wide refinery audit revealed that 17 of the 81 targeted U.S. refineries have yielded 146 potentially life-threatening violations.

Richard Fairfax, OSHA's director of enforcement, told the Houston Chronicle he found the preliminary results “disturbing” and was looking into expanding OSHA's Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management National Emphasis Program to include chemical plants.

He also said that he aims to extend the program beyond the initial 2-year period, which was the time frame OSHA designated to complete its investigations of the remaining 64 refineries.

OSHA uncovered slews of violations at various oil refineries throughout the nation in the past 8 months, which have resulted in a total of $896,300 in proposed penalties. For instance, the agency proposed penalties totaling $153,500 for violations at the Kansas-based Frontier El Dorado Refining Co., for hazards associated with a permanently occupied structure that was located in a high-hazard zone, as well as failing to address fire, explosion and chemical hazards.

Incidents at refineries resulted in 29 fatalities from 2005 to February 2008, including18 that occurred at the BP Texas City refinery. The 2005 BP Texas City explosion focused public attention on U.S. refinery hazards.

OSHA's Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management National Emphasis Program was launched in 2007 as a result of a report issued by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which alleged that OSHA neglected enforcement of its process safety management standard (29 CFR 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals) at oil and petrochemical facilities across the country.

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