Washington Seeks To Stem Catastrophic Incidents At Refineries

June 27, 2023
Proposed new requirements will update 30-year-old standards on process safety management.

According to a June 21, 2023, proposal from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), catastrophic events at petroleum refineries across the U.S. have tragically claimed the lives of many workers. In 1998, six workers in Washington state died from an incident at the then Equilon refinery in Anacortes. In 2010, seven more workers died at the then-Tesoro petroleum refinery in Anacortes.

The current rule to help prevent these tragedies, as applied to refineries, hasn’t been updated in over 30 years and doesn’t reflect current industry practices.

Indeed, the last time L&I adopted rules was 1992, when it adhered to OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard to prevent or minimize the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals, referred to as highly hazardous chemicals.

The proposed new requirements include:

  • Performing reviews to identify the most effective ways to control a hazard;
  • Incorporating consideration of human factors like staffing levels and turnover, training, fatigue and task complexity;
  • Conducting root cause analyses after significant accidents;
  • Frequently analyzing hazards, safeguards and controls, mechanical factors, and process changes and updating safety programs accordingly;
  • Assessing workplace safety culture so workers and managers prioritize safety, not production.

Full details of the proposal are posted on the L&I website.

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