Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Location, Location, Location: New Chem Board BP Explosion Recommendation

The US Chemical Safety Board has issued another "urgent" recommendation related to the BP Texas City explosoin that killed 15 workers. The recommendations called for the safer placement of trailers for workers at petrochemical facilities throughout the U.S.
The Board directed the urgent recommendations to two leading national trade organizations, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), which represent most major domestic oil and petrochemical producers. API develops recommended safety practices that influence operations at thousands of petrochemical facilities around the country.

The first recommendation calls on API to develop new industry guidance "to ensure the safe placement of occupied trailers and similar temporary structures away from hazardous areas of process plants." The Board noted that the existing safety guidance, API Recommended Practice 752, does not prohibit the placement of trailers in close proximity to hazardous process units. The guidance, entitled "Management of Hazards Associated with Location of Process Plant Buildings," is widely used by U.S. oil and chemical companies to assess siting hazards, a regulatory requirement under OSHA's Process Safety Management standard.


A separate urgent recommendation, directed jointly to API and NPRA, called on the organizations to immediately contact their members urging "prompt action to ensure the safe placement of occupied trailers away from hazardous areas of process plants," before the new API safety guidance is completed.
Most of the workers who died in the explosion were in a temporary office trailer only 100 to 150 feet away from the vent stack that exploded.

The API and NPRA seemed to react favorably to the recommendations, although the proof will be in the proverbial pudding:
"There are currently no government regulations or industry standards for establishing minimum safe distances from hazardous areas for buildings within refineries," said Ray Connolly, spokesman for the API.

Nonetheless, "An API task force will consider developing new industry guidance to assist companies in the safe placement of trailers located within process plants."

Sharon Dey, spokeswoman for the NPRA, said that the group's 450 members were contacted about the CSB's recommendation by this afternoon.

"The CSB is respected and taken seriously in this industry," she said. "But I have to believe that many of them (members) are already doing this. There is no higher priority for our people than to ensure the safety of their workers and their contractors."