OSHA: BP violated safety procedures that killed 2 employees in explosion

·2 min read

Two workers for BP Products North America Inc. died after being burned at a refinery in Oregon, Ohio, in September 2022. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors investigated the incident and determined that the company failed to meet mandated safety procedures, which led to the explosion that killed two employees.

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In September, workers attempted to correct rising liquid levels in the fuel gas mix drum, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor told. A flammable vapor cloud formed, ignited, then triggered an explosion that burned two workers.

They succumbed to their injuries and died following the incident.

OSHA inspectors conducted an investigation and discovered that the company had training deficiencies, the spokesperson said. The company failed to meet OSHA’s “process safety management procedures.”

The inspectors also found that the company released naphtha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture, when the flow control valves were opened in an attempt to “regulate an overfill occurring in upstream process equipment,” the spokesperson informed. This allowed the flammable liquid to enter the refinery’s fuel gas system.

OSHA claimed that the company failed to implement shutdown procedures for the equipment when operators requested it as they responded to the naphtha. The lack of clearly defined emergency shutdown conditions was one of the citable offenses.

“Federal safety standards require BP Products North America Inc. to develop companywide process safety and response procedures that address worst-case scenarios,” OSHA Area Director Todd Jensen in Toledo, Ohio, explained. “This tragedy is a reminder of why employers must consistently reevaluate those procedures for accuracy and ensure workers are properly trained to respond in dangerous situations.”

OSHA proposed $156,250 in penalties, an amount set by federal statutes. The company was cited for 10 serious violations, and one other-than-serious violation of process safety management procedures. The violations spanned the following:

  • Train operators to identify the presence of naphtha during an upset condition.

  • Develop and implement safe work practices for responding to upset 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.