BP leads the U.S. refining industry in deaths over the past decade, with 22 fatalities since 1995 — greater than a quarter of those killed in refineries nationwide, an analysis of business statistics, news accounts and accident reports reveals.
The corporate’s complete comprises a worker killed this month at the company’s Cherry Point refinery north of Seattle, 15 contractors who died in a March explosion in Texas Metropolis, Texas, and people who died in six other fatal accidents.
Nick Karuso, a fifty eight-yr-previous employee of Cascade Refinery Providers, was discovered dead Might 3 inside a refinery vessel he had been strain washing at the Whatcom County refinery run by BP, in accordance with a spokeswoman for the state Division of Labor and Industries.
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The department continues to be investigating, the spokeswoman said.
More than 10 instances as many people have died in BP refineries as in those owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., considered the company’s major U.S.-based peer.
BP has paid about $20,000 in federal and state fines in reference to 5 of these fatal accidents, and investigations of three others remain open.
However within the weeks earlier than accidents at Cherry Point and Texas Metropolis, the oil big’s dismal record landed BP on an inner federal watch checklist of companies “indifferent” to their authorized obligations to protect employee security due to a fatal explosion in Texas City in September 2004 that killed two pipefitters and injured a 3rd.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration accused BP of a “willful” violation of its guidelines, leading to the accident.
OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement program “zeroes in on employers with the gravest violations who’ve did not take their safety and well being duties severely,” Jonathan Snare, appearing assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, stated in a latest speech.
BP is the one main oil company on that listing, stated John Miles, OSHA’s regional director.
Though the record is not made public, it is an exclusive membership that features development contractors with bad data and industrial employers akin to McWane Industries, the Alabama company with one of the nation’s highest whole of workplace fatalities.
Beneath this system, OSHA inspectors have been to conduct follow-up inspections at BP’s Texas City refinery and in addition search for and target potential systemic problems at BP plants in other states.
However before that happened, the Texas City refinery again exploded on March 23. The blast killed 15 contractors and injured more than one hundred other people, a lot of whom had been working inside momentary trailers close to an outdated working unit that was restarted with out warning or routine evacuations that day.
“We had not been back out there as a result of we had simply finished issuing the (previous citation) three weeks earlier than,” Miles said. “But they would have been below much more scrutiny.”
The truth that Texas City has had repeated fatalities and repeated fines is a sign of potential trouble within BP, mentioned Charles Jeffress, a former director of OSHA.
“It is their biggest refinery, and you’d assume this could get some attention, so if their flagship’s not getting attention, well, disgrace on them,” he mentioned.
In response to questions from The Houston Chronicle, BP’s Lord John Browne said that he personally deeply regretted the Texas Metropolis accident and its impact on BP’s reputation.
“BP takes accountability for what occurs at its sites,” he stated. “We wish BP to be a protected place to work. So as well as mourning for these we’ve got misplaced, we’re decided to study from this tragedy and enhance our security file.”
BP spokesman Hugh Depland insisted that BP makes safety a priority and that there have been “significant upgrades at Texas Metropolis” lately.
“On account of the earlier incidents we have made a variety of adjustments in security — together with increased security evaluations by all members of the management workforce, an enhanced security workforce for all workers and creation of a full-time security audit workforce,” Depland mentioned.
The Texas City explosion was the eighth time this decade a fatal accident had been reported at a BP-owned plant — and the third fatal accident in Texas City alone.
No different U.S. refining company reported as many deaths over the decade, in line with an analysis of eighty deaths described in OSHA inspection records, newspaper reviews and lawsuits, interviews with major oil firms and government and industry statistics.
Amongst large oil firms, solely Shell and its Houston-based refining firms got here close to BP’s death toll. Shell Oil Products, predecessor Equilon Enterprises and sister firm Motiva Enterprises collectively recorded 11 deaths — half the BP whole.
The final fatality was in 2001, and in that case Motiva was prosecuted for negligent homicide in Delaware; it also paid a $10 million high-quality earlier this year in a associated federal surroundings lawsuit.
Before the Texas City explosion in March, the decade’s most deadly refinery accident was at a refinery in Anacortes owned by Equilon Enterprises, then a partnership between Royal Dutch Shell and Texaco.
On the day earlier than Thanksgiving in 1998, an explosion rocked the small Puget Sound port town, a hub for San Juan Island ferries. Six men who had been trying to clean a refinery unit died in the blast: James Berlin, 38; Theodore Cade, 23; Warren Fry, 50; David Murdzia, 30; Wayne Dowe, forty four; and Ronald Granfors, forty nine.
State OSHA investigators later determined that men had been sent in to wash when the unit was far too sizzling to handle safely. Calling the deaths totally preventable, they issued a $4.4 million wonderful. Three years after the accident, the refinery agreed to pay $45 million to the six men’s families — at the time the largest wrongful-dying lawsuit in Washington historical past.
In BP’s case, 19 of the company’s 22 refinery deaths got here in the past 18 months, including the Cherry Level accident, two separate explosions in Texas City and the fall of a plant water upkeep worker via a rotted railing in 2004 at the Whiting, Ind., refinery.
Naomi Briner, whose husband, Terry, fell headfirst into metal when a corroded railing gave way on the Indiana refinery final yr, mentioned she did not suppose BP or OSHA inspectors who fined them $1,625 took safety violations seriously enough.
“I’ve a BP paper that says we’ll provide our staff with a secure work environment, however there wasn’t one for my husband,” mentioned Briner. “I do not feel like a $1,625 tremendous is sufficient of a motivator for them.”
In Texas City, no less than, BP officials might have focused a lot on particular person worker safety that they missed issues with overall system security, mentioned Glenn Erwin, a former Texas City refinery employee who monitors refinery safety nationwide for the Paper Allied-Industries and Energy Staff Worldwide Union.
“They spend all their time saying ‘Don’t strain your again, don’t get dirt in your eye,’ ” he said.
Security statistics improve as a result of more workers are avoiding minor injuries, but lurking problems, such because the outmoded ventilator stack (often known as a vent stack) that spewed liquid and gas earlier than igniting, have been uncared for.
“A superb firm will examine all accidents, incidents and close to misses and say, ‘We’ll repair what we discover, and we’ll follow it to completion’ ” Erwin stated. “In BP’s case, they discovered the problem years in the past — the vent stack — but they never fixed it.”
In 2005, Administration and Excellence, a Madrid, Spain-primarily based organization that charges corporations on their ethics, in contrast BP with eight other giant petroleum firms. It rated BP 69 — the same rating as Mexico’s Pemex in the area of security and well being. ExxonMobil scored 92.