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BP must fix hazards now

Author : Amy Hollamby

10 March 2010

An OSHA inspection has revealed more than 60 violations of safety practice at the Toledo refinery in Ohio which could cost BP more than $3 million in fines. This latest fine for BP comes just months after regulators imposed a record penalty on the company over its refinery in Texas.

Texas City refinery
Texas City refinery

BP committed 42 alleged willful violations and 20 alleged serious violations for exposing workers to safety hazards. Willful violations are defined as those committed with indifference to employee safety and health, and with intentional disregard for the law.

Violations included failure to provide adequate pressure relief for process units, failure to provide safeguards to prevent the hazardous accumulation of fuel in process heaters, exposing workers to injury and death from collapse of refinery buildings in the event of a fire, and failures of OSHA’s process safety management standard.

OSHA began an inspection of the Toledo facility in September 2009 to see if it had complied with a settlement agreement reached after a previous check in 2006. BP was found to be in compliance, but OSHA said it found other violations that weren't covered by the original settlement. For example, OSHA inspectors said they found the potential for the release of flammable and explosive materials.

OSHA has found that BP often ignored or severely delayed fixing known hazards in its refineries,
and hence has been heavily criticised for its safety culture in the US. In October 2009, OSHA gave BP a record $87 million fine, the largest in the agency’s history, for failure to correct potential safety hazards after the 2005 explosion at Texas City. OSHA cited 270 notifications of failure to abate and 439 new willful violations for failures to follow industry-accepted controls on the pressure relief safety systems.

Following this, in December 2009, a US jury ordered BP to pay £100 million to ten workers who were exposed to toxic fumes at the refinery in April 2007. The company also has come under scrutiny for maintenance of pipelines in Alaskan oil fields.

BP has said that since the 2005 blast it has spent more than $1 billion on the Texas refinery to improve safety.

The 160,000-barrel-a-day Ohio refinery is a 50-50 joint venture between BP and Canadian company Husky Energy, though BP is the operator. The companies have 15 days to respond to these allegations of serious safety violations at the refinery in Ohio.

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