Confined Space
News and Commentary on Workplace Health & Safety, Labor and Politics

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

$2.4 Million OSHA Fine For BP Ohio Refinery

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined BP North America $2.4 million for unsafe operations at the company's Oregon, Ohio refinery. The OSHA Press Release notes that many of the violations are similar to the problems at BP's Texas City refinery where a March 2005 explosion killed 15 workers and injured 170.
"It is extremely disappointing that BP Products failed to learn from the lessons of Texas City to assure their workers' safety and health," said Edwin Foulke, Jr., OSHA assistant secretary. "Our Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) exists for companies like this who, despite our enforcement and outreach efforts, ignore their obligations under the law and continually place their employees at risk."

OSHA's Toledo Area Office initiated an inspection at the Ohio refinery in response to an alert issued by OSHA under the EEP. The inspection resulted in 32 per-instance willful citations, with penalties of more than $2.2 million. OSHA cited BP for locating people in vulnerable buildings among the processing units; failing to correct de-pressurization deficiencies; failing to correct deficiencies with gas monitors; and failing to prevent the use of non-approved electrical equipment in locations in which hazardous concentrations of flammable gases or vapors may exist.

BP was fined an additional $140,000 for two willful violations. The company neglected to develop shutdown procedures and designate responsibilities, and failed to establish a system to promptly address and resolve recommendations made after an incident when a large feed pump failed. Three years later those recommendations had still not been implemented.
BP Texas city received a record $21.4 million fine from OSHA for the 2005 explosion. Last August, the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, responding to the Texas City explsion as well as a number of other incidents at BP facilities in the United States, issued an urgent recommendation to BP to commission an independent panel that would review a range of safety management and culture issues in all of their North American refineries, including the Ohio refinery cited by OSHA today.

The United Steelworkers Union, which represents BP employees said that today's citation shows that BP was wrong when it initially blamed the Texas City explosion on workers' mistakes.
"This goes to show that the problems at Texas City were not worker-caused and were a result of system failure," said USW spokeswoman Lynne Baker.
OSHA's enhanced enforcement program (EEP) was announced in March 2003 to focus on persistent violators. It followed by two months the NY Times/Frontline series on the McWane Corporation. McWane was a persistent violator of OSHA standards and killer of workers, yet the series revealed that OSHA had never taken a coordinated approach to end the company's pattern of deadly negligence.

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