Nearly 300 federal safety inspectors will be dispersed to refineries across the country over the next two years, as part of an intensified enforcement program prompted by the March 2005 BP Texas City blast and other deadly refinery accidents, theHouston Chroniclereports.
Noting that 52 refinery workers have died and another 250 have been injured over the past 15 years because of accidental hazardous chemical releases, OSHA is training inspectors to examine procedures at 81 different facilities â€” about half of the nation's refineries â€” federal and industry officials said.
The latest fatality came last week when a contractor working to refurbish a unit at BP's Texas City refinery was electrocuted.
"By initiating this program, we are taking positive steps forward to maximize the protection of employees and are working to eliminate workplace hazards at petroleum refineries," OSHA chief Edwin Foulke Jr. said in a prepared statement.
The inspectors will examine how well refineries abide by federal process safety rules.
"OSHA has typically found that these employers have extensive written documentation related to process safety management, but the implementation of the written documentation has been inadequate," the agency said in a directive.
Two to four inspectors will visit a refinery and remain on site for several weeks, said Ron Chittim, the American Petroleum Institute's senior refining associate.
Inspectors will question refiners, who must be prepared to give answers regarding their handling of hazardous chemicals. While refiners will know most of the questions the inspectors will be asking, they also will face a number of what Chittim calls "pop quiz questions."
OSHA regulates 101 refineries nationwide, according to theChronicle. Twenty of those already are in voluntary safety programs and would be exempt from the new program.
OSHA to step up refinery inspections (6/12)
June 12, 2007