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Will regulatory changes reduce workplace injuries in refineries?

In the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in Aug. 2012, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) conducted an investigation into the incident. As part of that investigation, the CSB is making recommendations to change California's regulatory system as it pertains to refineries. The proposed approach is aimed at reducing workplace injuries as well as injuries to the public.

Reports indicate corroded piping caused the fire. Further, the piping in the crude oil processing unit finally failed because its design was not upgraded to latest safety standards. According to the CSB, under current California OSHA regulations, there was no impetus for the company to make any changes to the piping system even though workers had expressed concern over the piping's condition and recommended upgrading it.

The CSB is recommending that California's regulatory system be changed to a "safe case regime" currently being used in Europe. The safe case regime model puts the responsibility for safety back onto the company instead of regulators. Companies that operate in highly hazardous industries, such as refineries, would be required to prove their operations are safe by adhering to up-to-date safety standards and demonstrating risk to employees and the public is as low as possible.

This would be a more proactive approach than is currently used. Even so, the CSB believes it will cut down on industrial accidents and workplace injuries. Accidents are going to occur regardless of how safe the work environment, but a reduction in accidents would be welcomed by those workers who live with the threat of injury every time they go to work simply because of the nature of their profession. When a worker is injured on the job, he or she is entitled to workers' compensation benefits designed to reduce the financial impact of the incident on the worker. Benefits such as the payment of medical bills associated with the injury and assistance with lost wages during recovery can help an injured worker through an already difficult time.

Source:, CSB Draft Report Proposes Overhaul of Refinery Industry Regulatory System in California, No author, Dec. 28, 2013

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