Barab: Refiners need to learn from mistakes

May 27, 2010

OSHA assistant administrator Jordan Barab called for systemic safety reform in the oil refining industry during a speech at the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association National Safety Conference in San Antonio on May 19.

OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program for refineries in 2007 to verify compliance with the process safety management standard. More than 70 percent of citations issued fall under the categories of mechanical integrity, process safety information, operating procedures or process hazard analysis, Barab said.

He stressed that leaders need to learn from mistakes at their own refineries and others, such as the deadly April accident at the Tesoro Corp. refinery in Anacortes, WA, and the 2005 BP Texas City disaster.

While pointing out the need for better metrics, Barab scolded refiners for holding up low OSHA days away from work, restricted work activities or job transfers -- known as the DART rate -- as evidence of safety. He also said OSHA needed better measurements and would work with refiners, unions and experts to identify problems before accidents occur.