OSHA Proposes $3 Million in Fines for BP-Husky Refinery Safety Violations

March 9, 2010
On March 8, OSHA proposed more than $3 million in penalties against BP North American Inc. and BP-Husky Refining LLC’s Oregon, Ohio, refinery, citing various alleged willful and serious violations that exposed workers to hazards that could cause serious injury or death.

“OSHA has found that BP often ignored or severely delayed fixing known hazards in its refineries,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “There is no excuse for taking chances with people’s lives. BP must fix the hazards now.”

OSHA began its inspection at the refinery located near Toledo, Ohio, in September 2009 as part of the agency’s Refinery National Emphasis Program and as a follow-up to a 2006 inspection and a 2007 settlement agreement between OSHA and BP at this location. Although the 2009 inspection found that BP had complied with the settlement agreement, OSHA found numerous violations at the plant not previously covered by the agreement.

According to OSHA, the inspection revealed that workers were exposed to serious injury and death in the event of a release of flammable and explosive materials in the refinery because of numerous conditions constituting violations of OSHA’s process safety management standard. OSHA has issued willful citations for numerous failures to provide adequate pressure relief for process units, failures to provide safeguards to prevent the hazardous accumulation of fuel in process heaters, and exposing workers to injury and death from collapse of or damage, in the event of a fire, to nine buildings in the refinery. Additional willful citations allege various other violations of OSHA’s standard addressing process safety management. These citations carry proposed penalties totaling $2,940,000.

The serious citations address a variety of other hazards, including violations of other requirements of the process safety management standard. These carry proposed penalties totaling $102,000.

BP: We Take Safety Seriously

In a statement sent to EHS Today, BP expressed disappointment “that OSHA has chosen to characterize the majority of the audit findings as Willful.”

“We take our responsibility for safety very seriously at all of our operations,” the company stated.

BP pointed out that the Toledo refinery’s 2009 rate of recordable injuries was more than 25 percent lower than the refining industry average, and that the refinery “has made steady, measurable improvement in matters of process safety.”

“We continually assess our safety programs and address potential issues as part of our continuous improvement efforts,” the company stated.

The statement added that BP intends to work closely with local OSHA representatives and cooperate with the agency.

Pending Cases

According to OSHA, this refinery has been inspected 12 times since 1991. Nationally, BP Products North American has been inspected by OSHA 44 times at various sites and is facing pending cases in which 439 willful citations and failure-to-abate notices were issued to its Texas City Refinery as a result of a 2009 inspection. Proposed penalties in those pending cases total $87 million, the largest penalties by far ever proposed by OSHA.

A massive explosion and fire at BP’s Texas City Refinery in 2005 killed 15 workers and injured 170. A large portion of the penalties proposed for the Texas City Refinery results from OSHA’s allegations that BP failed to fully live up to a settlement agreement entered into after the explosion. BP has contested the citations, notifications of failure-to-abate and the proposed penalties in those cases.

BP North American Inc. operates and jointly owns the refinery with Canadian-based Husky Energy Inc. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an information conference with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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