UpdateMore work needed on refinery safety – US chem safety board

23 July 2012 20:16  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The petroleum industry has made progress in acting on the recommendations of the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in the wake of the deadly 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas, but still falls short of what is needed, a board member said on Monday.

The safety board said the American Petroleum Institute (API) had made “acceptable” progress on its recommendations “to develop an effective system of indicators to evaluate performance and implement these measures to continually improve the management and control of process safety risks”.

The safety board began a two-day hearing in Houston regarding onshore and offshore safety measures.

Board member Mark Griffon said, "There's clearly a lot of work to be done.” Griffon said that measuring individual injury and illness rates "doesn't necessarily equate to process safety".

Griffon said that while the petrochemical industry has made some strides in developing measurement tools since the Texas City explosion, "I do feel there's some urgency on the implementation side." That includes internal use of metrics at the site level, within companies, within industry sectors as well as identifying trends on the national level.

"In my opinion, [the API response] falls a bit short," Griffon said.

Among the themes that will be discussed during the hearing, he said, are the development of sufficient indicators; how to effectively standardise and normalise those metrics across the industry; the proper role of regulators in developing those measures; the reporting of performance data, whether internally, to the government and to the public, including benefits and drawbacks of such reporting; and the type of data to be reported.

Monday's portion of the hearing was scheduled to conclude with a panel discussion on "Qualities of Effective Indicator Programs," including witnesses from API, United Steelworkers (USW) and the federal Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA).

Safety board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said that one of the findings of the CSB investigation into the 2005 accident was that BP and the oil refining and chemical sectors did not have an effective system of indicators to evaluate their safety performance sufficient to determine the potential for a major catastrophe.

“BP and industry sectors were instead typically using personal safety indicators such as slips, trips and falls to measure safety performance,” Moure-Eraso said.

“Leading indicators provide data on the health of these critical safety systems before a gas release or spill occurs,” he said. “Often the difference between a lagging event and a catastrophic one is merely the lack of an ignition source. Industry needs effective leading indicators capable of reducing the risks of catastrophic failures such as the 2005 accident at BP Texas City.”

The 2005 explosion at Texas City killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.

On Tuesday, CSB staff is scheduled to present a report of the agency's investigation of the Deepwater Horizon incident related to safety performance indicators and their use in preventing major accidents in offshore operations and panel discussions featuring regulatory, stakeholder and public interest groups and industry representatives.

Additional reporting by Brian Ford

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By: Ken Fountain

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