OSHA inspectors conducting an unprecedented national audit of U.S. refineries have found 146 violations after reviewing just 17 refineries in a dozen states, theHouston Chroniclereports. Many of the violations are described as potentially life-threatening.

The nationwide audit, which will target a total of 81 U.S. refineries, was launched last year in response to decades of refinery deaths, including the massive explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others at BP's Texas City refinery in March 2005.

Even though only 17 of 81 targeted U.S. refineries have been reviewed so far, the preliminary results are disturbing, Rich Fairfax, OSHA's director of enforcement, told theChronicle.

"Based on the data we're finding and the number of violations, [the] program will continue," Fairfax said. "I have no intention of ending it after two years based on what we're finding."

In fact, Fairfax said he wants it expanded to include chemical plants, according to theChronicle.

At least 29 people have died in U.S. refinery accidents from 2005 to 2008, including 18 in four separate accidents at BP Texas City alone, theChroniclereported earlier this year.

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program aims to cover 64 more refineries in the next two years. So far, in eight months, inspectors have proposed $896,300 in penalties, according to information OSHA compiled for theHouston Chronicle.

In Ohio, OSHA inspectors found that, among other defects, piping was inadequately protected from corrosion at a Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery. Marathon agreed to pay $321,500 in penalties in December — the biggest penalty levied under the program so far.