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Just how safe are refineries?

Like most in Conroe, you likely have a soft spot for your employer (no doubt due to the fact that without your job, you would not enjoy the life you do). That soft spot may lead you to give your company the benefit of the doubt in all things (even up to the safety of your work environment). Employers in specialty industries (such as refineries) understand that their work presents unique risks to its practitioners. You might assume that knowing these risks, your employer has taken every possible precaution to protect you and your coworkers. Yet is that the case? 

Information shared by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows that there is a good chance your assumption may be wrong. In a recent investigation into the process safety management practices for petroleum refineries in the U.S., OSHA showed there to be numerous violations of even basic safety measures. The three most common proved to be: 

  • PSM equipment that did not comply with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices 
  • Failures to maintain accurate and up-to-date piping and instrumentation diagrams
  • A lack of documentation detailing relief system designs

Specific examples from safety inspections included employees not understanding why relief systems were designed the way they were as well as instances where refinery personnel had not checked to ensure that the labeling on components of their piping and instrumentation systems matched the actual components themselves. In terms of missing equipment, OSHA inspectors came across cases where relief devices were located in accessible areas (or were missing altogether). 

While this information may seem startling, it may be beneficial if you are involved in a refinery accident. Knowing the most common safety issues found in the industry lets you know where to look to determine if your accident was due to employer negligence. 

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