Focused Inspections of Petroleum Refineries in Washington Finds Multiple Violations at Shell's Equilon Facility

Washington state's Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Shell Oil Co.'s Equilon refinery in Anacortes, Wash., for violations found as a result of a focused inspection aimed at reducing the likelihood of catastrophic events associated with petroleum refinery operations.

Equilon was the first of Washington’s four large refineries to have a comprehensive inspection as part of a federal National Emphasis Program aimed at inspecting all petroleum refineries in the United States. The national program began last year as a result of the 2005 explosion and fire at a BP America refinery in Texas that killed 15 employees and injured another 170.

L&I cited Equilon for 23 “serious” safety and health violations, which carry proposed penalties of $109,600. A “serious” violation is cited when there is the potential for death or serious physical injury from the violation.

The inspections focus on a refinery’s development and implementation of systems designed to reduce or mitigate the potential for catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals. Refineries are required to identify, evaluate and control process hazards; develop and implement mechanical integrity programs; and train operators who must monitor and respond to deviations in the process.

A team of L&I officers went to the refinery 2 days a week for 2 months to conduct the detailed inspection, in addition to reviewing 10,000 pages of documents. The inspection uncovered:

  • Deficiencies in the compilation of process safety information.
  • Failure to identify, evaluate and control process hazards such as those relating to atmospheric releases of highly hazardous chemicals into the work area, potential failure of existing engineering and administrative safety controls and human performance issues during emergencies.
  • Deficiencies with the development and implementation of mechanical integrity programs, such as inspection and testing of safety systems and other control devices designed to prevent or mitigate catastrophic events.
    Inadequate training programs to ensure operators understand and respond appropriately to process upsets and other emergency operating conditions.
  • Failure to evaluate changes to process equipment and ensure safety reviews are completed prior to placing equipment back into service.
  • Controlling activities in covered process areas.

The employer has 15 working days to appeal the citation.

TAGS: Archive OSHA
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