In April, OSHA put BP’s operations on a national watch list. That list, which is not released publicly by the agency, is a compilation of safety violators in all industries the agency regulates.Better Late Than NeverMeanwhile, BP has announced that it will replace the type of equipment that caused the explosion at all five of the company's U.S. refineries.
OSHA regional director John Miles said BP is one of only two oil refiners on the list of 700. The other is a refinery in Kansas.
"The fact they are on that list says a lot," said Miles, who has oversight on workplace safety in a five-state region that includes Texas. "You have had four major incidents at that facility since (March 2004), and that is a concern."
In addition to the March 23 blasts and an explosion last week that did not result in any injures, but put the city under a Level 3 shelter-in-place order, the refinery has had two other incidents Miles referred to. In March 2004, a faulty ignition switch on a furnace at the refinery led to a blast and large fireball that had the city on edge.
No one was hurt in that incident.
But a pipeline burst in September resulted in the death of two BP workers and a third suffered severe burns.
OSHA cited BP for a willful violation and seven serious violations and fined the company $109,005 for the September incident. BP is contesting the findings.
Miles said BP needs to go beyond finding out what happened to cause the March 23 explosions that killed 15 people and injured more than 170. He believes the company needs to consider a fundamental change in its safety culture.
“At some point BP has to say, "enough is enough,’" said Miles. "I think that facility for BP (in Texas City) is at that point."
By the end of the year, BP will replace three vent stacks — emergency systems that take in vapors and vent them to the atmosphere when pressure in a unit builds — with flares, a more modern technology that burns off the material, reducing the possibility that it could ignite.
On March 23, a 50-year-old vent stack on the company's isomerization unit — which boosts the octane content of gasoline — erupted into a geyser of flammable vapor that ignited, killing 15 and injuring 170.
BP's internal investigation into the blast found that the company had two opportunities to replace the stack — in 1995 and 2002. Had the company done so, the incident would have been less severe, the report found.