CSB Proposes More Rigorous Regulatory System for California Refineries

In a final report released Nov. 10, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) calls on California to enhance its process safety management (PSM) regulations for petroleum refineries and recommends “substantial” changes to the way those refineries are regulated in the state. The regulatory report is the second of three in the agency’s investigation of the August 2012 Chevron Refinery fire in Richmond, Calif. The first, an interim investigation report, cited “missed opportunities to apply inherently safer design, failure to identify and evaluate damage mechanism hazards, and [a] lack of effective safeguards” as contributors to the fire, which was caused by a catastrophic pipe failure. 

The new report concludes that the existing regulatory regimes for onshore petroleum refineries in the U.S. and California are static and are unable to adapt to advances in the management of major hazard risks. In addition, CSB found that the current regulatory system does not require the use or implementation of inherently safer systems analysis or the hierarchy of controls, and does not effectively involve employees in risk reduction and prevention of major accidents. CSB’s report explains how attributes of a more adaptive PSM approach would enhance existing state and federal process safety regulations.
Nineteen refinery employees were endangered during the 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery. Following the accident, 15,000 people sought medical attention due to a vapor cloud that was released into the surrounding area.
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