Workplace Regulation to Reduce Incidents at California Oil Refineries OK’d

May 18, 2017

California’s Department of Industrial Relations’ Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board today approved a regulation aimed at strengthening workplace safety and health at oil refineries across the state.

The new regulation is designed to provide a framework for anticipating, preventing and responding to hazards at refineries, according to the DIR.

“This is the most protective regulation in the nation for the safety and health of refinery workers and surrounding communities,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “This new regulation will ensure California’s oil refineries are operated with the highest levels of safety possible and with injury and illness prevention in mind.”

The regulation introduces a refinery safety order enforced by Cal/OSHA’s Process Safety Management Unit, adding section 5189.1 to Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

The elements outlined in the regulation require refinery employers to:

  • Conduct Damage Mechanism Reviews for processes that result in equipment or material degradation.
  • Conduct a Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis to encourage refinery management to implement the effective safety measures when considering competing demands and costs when correcting hazards.
  • Implement a Human Factors Program, which requires analysis of human factors such as staffing levels, training and competency, fatigue and other effects of shift work.
  • Implement written procedures for the Management of Organizational Change to ensure that plant safety remains consistent during personnel changes.
  • Utilize Root Cause Analysis when investigating any incident that results in, or could have reasonably resulted in, a major incident.
  • Perform and document a Process Hazard Analysis of the effectiveness of safeguards that apply to particular processes and control hazards associated with each process.
  • Understand the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety and evaluate responses to reports of hazards by implementing and maintaining an effective Process Safety Culture Assessment program.

Most refineries in California have adopted some of the practices outlined above over the past decade, however the industry still experiences major incidents that pose a risk to workers, nearby communities and cause disruption to fuel services, according to the DIR.

Now that the Standards Board has approved the regulation, the Office of Administrative Law has 30 working days to review and approve it.

The new rules are part of a package of complementary regulations intended to make California refineries safer for both workers and surrounding communities. The companion regulation strengthens the California Accidental Release Prevention program, designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances that could harm public health and the environment.

The revised CalARP regulation will also be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law for approval in the coming weeks.

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