Washington, DC, April 10, 2004 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has commenced a preliminary investigation at the site of the April 8 fire at the Giant Industries refinery near Gallup, New Mexico, west of Albuquerque.
The incident was reported to have occurred at about 9 a.m. local time in an alkylation unit of the refinery, injuring 4 employees who suffered severe burns. According to media reports, workers were evacuated, and firefighters at the plant had the fire under control by 9:30. The CSB team arrived on April 9 and includes Board member Rixio Medina, lead investigator David Heller, and several other CSB investigators. Yesterday, upon arrival at the site, investigators toured the Giant refinery facility. They were able to observe the region housing the alkylation unit involved in the incident, but were unable to enter the unit as plant personnel worked to secure the area and render the unit safe for investigators.
Today investigators are conducting interviews with fire, police, state police, ambulance and other emergency response agencies. Investigators are scheduled to interview employees on Monday when they return to work. Depending on the outcome of the preliminary assessment, the Board may proceed with a full investigation leading to a determination of the root causes and issuance of safety recommendations.
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 safety management systems. Typically, the investigations involve extensive witness interviews, examination of physical evidence, and chemical and forensic testing. 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. The Board designates formal responses to its recommendations as acceptable or unacceptable, open or closed. Further information about the CSB is available from www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact Daniel Horowitz, 202-261-7613 / 202-441-6074 (cell) or Sandy Gilmour Communications, 202-261-7614 / 202-251-5496 (cell).