BP appeals alleged safety violations at Cherry Point refinery

BP is appealing an August citation from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for six alleged violations of workplace health and safety rules at the oil and gas company’s Cherry Point Refinery.

State officials have proposed penalties of $81,500. Three-fourths of that amount was proposed for a violation the L&I department characterized as “willful,” which was linked to a February fire at the refinery that shut down operations for several months.

BP has requested all alleged violations be suspended or withdrawn, according to an appeal letter obtained from the L&I department.

The willful violation referred to state officials’ determination that the Cherry Point refinery did not properly inspect and test a “dead-leg” pipeline that ruptured and caused the fire.

Dead-leg pipes are not often used in refining, but are still required to be monitored for integrity if they carry material used in the process, according to the L&I department.

According to the citation, state officials said BP did not follow “recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices” when inspecting the dead-leg pipe.

BP’s appeal states the company did not violate the “generally accepted practices” guidelines, which are a broad set of federal statutes that typically require a company to keep some sort of written program for safety inspections.

The company’s appeal further states the citation did not point to any specific engineering practice that BP supposedly violated. And even if the citation could be established, according to BP, it cannot be classified as “willful.”

Willful violations—which are the most significant non-criminal citations the L&I department issues—are “committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference or substitution of judgement with respect to worker safety and health regulations,” according to the department.

According to the appeal letter, the Cherry Point refinery has “acted in good faith in developing and implementing an extensive and detailed [process safety management] program, including but not limited to inspection and testing procedures for deadlegs and other piping.”

BP Cherry Point spokesperson Bill Kidd said in a previous interview that the refinery used wireless devices to monitor the dead-leg pipe that eventually ruptured. The devices, however, were not positioned in locations that allowed discovery of pipe corrosion in time to prevent the fire, Kidd said.

L&I spokesperson Elaine Fischer said BP’s appeal will be forwarded to the state Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, which can either uphold the penalties, modify them or reverse them.

Fischer said the appeal process could take several months. The state does not comment on cases under appeal.

“The board will hear the appeal and take it from there,” she said.

Read the original citation

Read BP’s letter of appeal

Contact Evan Marczynski at evan@bbjtoday.com or call 360-647-8805. 

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