CSB—poor design and safety documentation in Chevron

Chemical Safety Board findings from 2012 refinery fire ‘apply to all refineries, plants and industry.’

The Chemical safety board (CSB) has issued a draft report on the 2012 fire at a Chevron refinery in Richmond, California. The fire occurred when corroded piping in a crude oil processing unit ruptured causing a hydrocarbon release and a vapor cloud that ignited. Nineteen workers narrowly escaped death or serious injury as they were engulfed in the vapor cloud. The interim report found that Chevron had missed opportunities to apply inherently safer design and failed to identify and evaluate hazards.

The CSB team recommends that Chevron should perform damage mechanism hazard reviews and ensure that safeguards are in place to control identified hazards. The CSB also recommends the reporting of process safety KPIs to improve oversight by regulatory agencies. Recommendations were also made to local authorities to strengthen local industrial safety ordinances and ‘drive the risk of major accidents as low as reasonably practicable.’

CSB chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, ‘Our findings and recommendations are directed at the Richmond accident but we believe they apply to all refineries, chemical plants and general industry. There is a national need to base safety principles on inherently safer designs and applying effective safeguards to control damage mechanisms such as corrosion. Regulatory agencies must maintain sufficient professional expertise to effectively oversee these highly technical industries.’

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