Houston, Texas, April 23, 2007 - William E. Wright, a board member of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), today called on the American Petroleum Institute (API) to revise its draft recommended practices for the use and siting of trailers and other portable buildings in and around hazardous process areas in refineries and chemical plants. The API is the largest oil industry association and sets important guidelines for its members.
The CSB issued an urgent recommendation to API to update the guidelines for portable work buildings such as trailers in August 2005, following the explosion at the BP Texas City refinery in March of that year. Fifteen contract workers were killed. Most had been working in or near portable trailers located near hazardous process equipment - the refinery's isom unit - during one of the most hazardous operations - a unit startup.
Speaking at the 22nd Annual International Conference of the Center for Chemical Process Safety, an arm of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Mr. Wright said, "Our investigation of the tragedy at the BP refinery showed an urgent need for the industry to revamp its procedures for locating trailers and other portable buildings. While we appreciate the response by API to our recommendations, we are concerned that their draft Recommended Practice 753 does not effectively address the issue and would fall short of providing workers the safety they need when working in temporary facilities at petrochemical plants."
Mr. Wright said, "As the CSB has noted in a formal letter to API, our investigation clearly indicates that temporary structures can pose serious risks to occupants when they are sited near hazardous areas. Guidance for the industry in this matter, therefore, should explicitly seek to minimize the use of these structures near hazardous areas."
The API's Recommended Practice 753 is entitled "Management of Hazards Associated with Location of Plant Portable Buildings, 1st Edition, December 2006." API indicated to the Board that it would be seeking to issue the guidance in final form during the first half of 2007.
Mr. Wright told the CCPS conference, held as part of the 3rd Global Congress on Process Safety, that the CSB's concerns include the following: the API guideline fails to establish minimum safe distances for trailers and similar structures from hazardous areas of process plants; it does not provide specific guidance to protect occupants from accident hazards; it fails to comprehensively address the potential hazards of trailers; it does not include a clear definition of occupancy, and fails to explicitly include other requirements that would help ensure safety. Those should include, the CSB has informed API, a strong emphasis on reducing to a minimum the use of temporary structures as well as the number of personnel authorized to occupy them, and strict limitations on the use of portable structures for any personnel during periods of increased risk, such as startups and shutdowns.
"It is our hope that API will include the minimum considerations outlined here today for its Recommended Practices for use and siting of these structures and strengthen its guidelines. Because it is such an important organization, API guidelines carry a great deal of weight. Strong guidelines and recommended practices on temporary structures from the API could help save lives and prevent the kind of tragedy that occurred at BP in 2005," Mr. Wright said.
To read the CSB letter to API, to view the CSB Urgent Recommendation on Trailer siting, and for information on the CSB investigation into the BP accident, please visit www.CSB.gov.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact: Director of Public Affairs Dr. Daniel Horowitz, cell 202.441.6074 in Houston April 23, 2007; or call Public Affairs Specialist Kate Baumann 202-261-7612, cell 202-725-2204; Sandy Gilmour 202.261.7614, cell 202.251.5496.