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US investigation finds BP workplace safety failures after fatal burns

17th Mar 2023 08:14

(Alliance News) - A US federal investigation found that a BP PLC subsidiary violated workplace safety practices, leading to the deaths of two workers, according to a release from the US Department of Labor on Thursday.

The investigation concerns an incident that caused fatal burns to two workers in an Oregon, Ohio refinery's crude unit, operated by BP Products North America Inc.

"As the workers attempted to correct rising liquid levels in the fuel gas mix drum, a flammable vapor cloud formed, ignited and then triggered an explosion in September 2022, causing the deadly burns," the Labor Department explained.

The US government department's Occupational Safety & Health Administration found that BP Products had failed to meet its process safety management procedures, and had deficiencies in its training.

"They also determined naphtha – a flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixture – was released when flow control valves were opened in an attempt to regulate an overfill occurring in upstream process equipment," the department said.

Flammable liquid then entered the refinery's fuel gas system from the open valve.

According to OSHA, Houston-based BP Products failed to implement shutdown procedures for the equipment, and did not "clearly [define] conditions" for the emergency shutdown of the crude tower.

OSHA cited the company for 10 "serious" violations relating to workplace safety protocols and training, as well as one "other-than-serious" procedural violation.

The regulator proposed a fine of USD156,250. The amount is set by federal statutes, it noted.

"Federal safety standards require BP Products North America Inc to develop company-wide process safety and response procedures that address worst-case scenarios," explained OSHA Area Director Todd Jensen in Toledo, Ohio.

BP Products has 15 days from the receipt of citations and penalties to comply, ask for informal talks with OSHA, or contest the findings.

"This tragedy is a reminder of why employers must consistently reevaluate those procedures for accuracy and ensure workers are properly trained to respond in dangerous situations," Area Director Jensen concluded.

BP shares were up 3.8% at 500.90 pence amid a rising market in London early Friday. The wider FTSE 100 index was up 1.1%.

By Elizabeth Winter, Alliance News senior markets reporter

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