Sunday, July 23, 2006

Worker Killed At BP Texas City Plant

A contract worker was killed at BP's Texas City Refinery, the same plant that saw the deaths of 15 workers from an explosion last year.
Based on reports provided to public safety officials in Texas City, the contractor was part of a JV Piping crew that was installing a pipe rack in preparation for connection to a flare. The work was being done in the eastern part of the refinery near the Aromatics Recovery Unit.

BP has been in the process of removing blowdown stack pressure-relief systems and replacing them with flares. That work was prompted by a fatal series of explosions last March at the refinery that was partially blamed on the use of the outdated blowdown system as a way to relieve pressure build up.

The worker who was killed was in a basket of a telescopic lift, which is a work basket attached to the end of a hydraulic arm that can be controlled by the person in the basket or from the ground. The contractor who was killed was believed to be in control of the unit at the time of the accident.

He was killed when he became pinned against the pipe rack as he was attempting to move.
Because the worker was an employee of the contractor (JV Piping) and not BP, the fatality will not go on BP's OSHA log. That's because companies are required by OSHA only to keep logs of the employees on their payroll; employees of contractors working at the site go on logs of the employer of the contractor, which often aren't even in the same industry as the main employer. All 15 of the workers killed in last year's explosion were also contract workers.

The Houston Chronicle discussed this problem in an article last year. The main problem with this kind fo reporting process is that OSHA focuses its inspection targeting on industries with high numbers of injuries, illnesses and fatalities, and the most dangerous companies within those industries. As companies give their most dangerous work to contractors, they increase the chance that their company and their industry can stay off OSHA's targeting list.

But looking at fatalities on the entire site, rather than just on BP's payroll, things don't look so good:
Friday’s fatality marked the 18th person killed at the BP Texas City facility in two years. In September 2004, two men were killed when a pipe burst and struck them with super heated water. In March 2005, a series of explosions ripped through a unit and killed 15 people