OSHA and Refinery Inspections

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that over the next two years, OSHA will be sending 300 federal inspectors to petroleum refineries to evaluate operators processes for handling hazardous chemicals.  This announcement comes after the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued its comprehensive investigation report of the BP Texas City refinery explosion which took the lives of 15 people and injured 180 other individuals.  An earlier story by the Chronicle noted OSHA officials’ displeasure with the CSB’s criticism.

In the CSB’s report of the BP Texas City explosion, the investigators noted:

“OSHA inspection data reveal that federal OSHA conducted [only] nine planned PQV inspections in targeted industries from 1995 to March 2005.  …Fedeal OSHA conducted no planned PQV inspections in oil refineries from 1995 to March 2005.”

 The Chronicle reports that the American Petroleum Institute was briefed recently on the new OSHA enforcement program and describe it this way:

“Two to four inspectors will visit a refinery and remain on site for several weeks.  Inspectors will come armed with questions refiners must be prepared to answer 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 ‘pop quiz questions.'”

Carolyn Merritt, chair of the CSB said “she’s happy OSHA is launching this new enforcement effort but wishes it had been undertaken years ago.”

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