OSHA to Refineries: Comply with Process Safety Management Standard

July 10, 2009
Oil refineries nationwide have received letters from OSHA emphasizing the need to comply with all applicable OSHA standards, particularly the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHCs).

Letters recently were sent to the management of more than 100 oil refineries providing them with data on compliance issues found under OSHA’s Refinery National Emphasis Program (NEP) and urging the refiners to comply with their obligations under the process safety management (PSM) standard. The standard requires employers to develop and incorporate comprehensive, site-specific safety management systems to reduce the risks of fatal or catastrophic incidents. To assist in compliance efforts, OSHA recommends that employers review the information at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=3589 or contact their local OSHA offices.

“We initiated this NEP to ensure that refineries develop and fully implement a safety management system that protects workers from serious incidents," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. "Our inspection teams were repeatedly seeing the same problems at the refineries. We found it necessary to remind employers of the importance of compliance with OSHA standards that are designed to save workers’ lives."

One of the worst oil refinery disasters in history happened in 2005 at the BP Texas City, Texas, refinery where 15 workers died and 170 workers were injured in an explosion and fire. Another incident at a refinery in New Mexico caused injury to six workers when a release of HHCs occurred during pump maintenance.

During the first year of the NEP, OSHA inspectors issued nearly 350 PSM citations to 14 refineries. Some of the citations issued involved employers who failed to address their own process safety findings and recommendations, and failed to establish maintenance procedures for equipment such as pressure vessels and emergency shutdown systems.

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