Refinery explosion: Training, operating procedures cited by OSHA

Staff Writer

Deficiencies in training and operating procedures contributed to the explosion at the BP Products refinery in Oregon last September that killed two workers, according to a federal investigation.
The investigation found the refinery operator, BP Products North America, Inc., violated U.S. Department of Labor’s safety procedures for highly hazardous materials and failed to adequately train the workers.
As the workers attempted to correct rising liquid levels in a fuel gas mix drum, a flammable vapor cloud formed, ignited and then triggered an explosion, causing the deadly burns to the workers, the investigation found.
Ben Morrissey, 32, and his brother, Max Morrissey, 34, died at the University of Michigan Medical Center, where they had been transported from Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center.
Inspectors with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that naphtha - a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture – was released when flow control valves were opened in an attempt to regulate an overfill occurring in upstream process equipment. The opened valve allowed the flammable liquid to enter the refinery’s fuel gas system.
OSHA cited BP for failing to implement shutdown procedures for the equipment when requested by the operators responding to the naphtha release and for not clearly defining conditions for emergency shutdown of the crude tower.
OSHA is proposing $156,260 in penalties and cited the company for 10 serious violations and one violation considered other than serious.
Specifically, OSHA found that BP failed to:
-Train operators to identify the presence of naphtha during an upset condition.
-Develop and implement safe work practices for responding to those conditions.
-Document design for pressure safety valves, including for an overpressure scenario.
-Address hazards of overfilling process vessels, and safeguards needed to protect against an overfill.
-Evaluate for engineering or administrative controls for draining process equipment during upset conditions.
-Address human factors with the operation of the inside control board screen loading delays.
-Ensure process hazard assessments were accurate with respect to level indicator safeguards.
The company has 15 business days from receiving the citations and penalties to comply to request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
“This tragedy is a reminder of why employers must consistently re-evaluate those procedures for accuracy and ensure workers are properly trained to respond in dangerous situations,” Todd Jensen, OSHA Area Director, said.


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