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California oil refinery safety regulations approved

oil gas refinery
Photo: lagereek/iStockphoto

Sacramento, CA – The California Department of Industrial Relations and the California Environmental Protection Agency have approved final regulations intended to improve hazard prevention and management at the state’s 15 oil refineries.

The rules come after a 2012 incident at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA, where a sizable fire and release of chemicals reportedly caused 15,000 people to seek medical attention. They amend California OSHA refinery worker safety regulations and the California Accidental Release Prevention program to require that refinery employers:

  • Perform Damage Mechanism Reviews to analyze the processes, such as corrosion or friction-related corrosion, that wear down equipment or materials.
  • Administer a Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis with the goal of prompting refinery managers to seek the best safety measures, even when looking at demands such as cost.
  • Analyze effects of staffing levels, fatigue, competency, training, human and machine interaction, and other factors on the refinery workforce.
  • Develop, implement and maintain written safety procedures to ensure consistency is maintained even when personnel changes occur.
  • Use procedures that seek to identify the main cause(s) when investigating an event that could have resulted in a major incident.
  • Conduct and document a Process Hazard Analysis on the effectiveness of safeguards to certain operations, and then identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with each process.
  • Gain a greater understanding of the attitudes and values that employees share on safety and analyze their responses to hazard reports to develop and maintain a Process Safety Culture Assessment program.
  • Annually report refinery safety metrics established under the California Accidental Release Prevention program.

“These new regulations increase overall preparedness, provide greater accountability, and implement a nation-leading approach to public safety and emergency prevention at refineries,” Mark Ghilarducci, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services director, said in an Aug. 4 press release.

According to the release, many California refineries have followed various practices identified above and experienced “significant improvement in safety performance as a result.” Still, major incidents persist, the release states.

The new regulations are set to go into effect Oct. 1.

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