L&I cites BP Cherry Point for 13 safety violations

The Bellingham Business Journal

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) announced on May 5 that it has cited the petroleum refinery BP Cherry Point for 13 serious safety violations discovered during an inspection that began in November. The citations carry a combined fine of $69,200.

BP Cherry Point, near Blaine, is the largest petroleum refinery in Washington, processing 225,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Bill Kidd, BP government affairs director for Washington, said the investigation report had not been sent to his office yet, but once citations are reviewed and understood, the company will work with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health to resolve them.

The inspection focused on the hydrocracker process unit, the refinery’s largest process unit, which refines low-grade oil into gasoline. Twelve of the violations involve regulations governing the management of highly hazardous chemicals, which are part of what is commonly referred to as the Process Safety Management Standard. One of the violations involves a failure to provide proper machine guarding.

The 12 process safety management problems included failure to routinely inspect or maintain safety control devices, such as pressure safety valves; inaccurate or outdated instrument diagrams; and failure to record whether identified safety hazards were corrected. One violation noted that there were 38 instances of safety recommendations for which there was no record they were ever implemented.

“The safety violations our inspectors uncovered at BP were problems similar to those we’ve uncovered in all of the refineries we have inspected in Washington,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health in a press release. “Petroleum refineries are inherently risky work environments, and following the safety regulations is the key to preventing explosions and other life-threatening events.”

Kidd said the company would have preferred having no citations, but that the inspection does compare favorably with those done at other refineries.

“We are proud of our safety track record in recent years, but we know there is always room for improvement,” Kidd said.

The inspection was part of a program begun in 2007 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect the nation’s petroleum refineries. The National Emphasis Program followed several events in the refinery industry, including the 2005 explosion at a BP America refinery in Texas that killed 15 people and injured 170 others.

L&I has now inspected all five refineries in the state:

  • U.S. Oil and Refinery in Tacoma.
  • Shell Oil Equilon in Anacortes.
  • Tesoro in Anacortes.
  • Conoco Phillips in Ferndale, which volunteered to be inspected prior to the start of the National Emphasis Program.
  • BP Cherry Point near Blaine.

The Tesoro refinery in Anacortes experienced an explosion on April 2 that ultimately killed seven workers. L&I is continuing to investigate that incident.

BP has 15 days from the date it received the citation to file an appeal.

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