bully pulpitA hydrocarbon release at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California last August engulfed nineteen workers in a vapor cloud and sparked a fire that caused nearby residents to be evacuated.

In a development that will be of interest to those concerned with safety in oil and gas industry, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is preparing to make public the results of its investigation into the incident.

Only six minor injuries were reported among the Chevron workers caught in the vapor cloud. The CSB determined that eighteen employees escaped before the fire started and one employee escaped without injury after the fire ensued. More than 15,000 residents in the surrounding area sought treatment at area medical facilities as a result of the release and fire. Production at the crude unit has been suspended since the accident.

The CSB will issue an interim report and formal safety recommendations at a public hearing on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. PDT at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center located at 403 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond, CA.  

CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said the issues presented at the meeting will be applicable to refineries across the country.

Those issues include sulfidation corrosion, effective hazard analysis processes and requirements for the use of corrosion-resistant materials in refineries.  Following the presentation, the Board will hear from invited panel members and members of the public.

The hearing is free and open to the public. Pre-registration is encouraged but not required; to register for the event, please send email to csbmeeting@csb.gov. Members of the audience will have an opportunity to comment on the draft report, as presented by the investigative staff.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.