Washington L&I Revamps Safety Rules for Petroleum Refineries

Washington L&I Revamps Safety Rules for Petroleum Refineries

The updated rules focus on proactive risk reduction and enhanced safety measures.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has updated its process safety management (PSM) rules, targeting enhanced safety for petroleum refinery workers.

According to a release dated Dec. 28, this development was influenced by past incidents such as the 2010 Tesoro explosion and the 1998 Equilon incident, which each resulted in multiple fatalities. It marks a pivotal shift in the approach to handling hazardous chemicals in refineries.

“Refineries have to proactively eliminate and reduce risk—not just react,” Craig Blackwood, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “It has been decades since these rules were updated, and we know the capability of the industry to make these safety changes has improved during that time, so our rules needed to improve as well.”

The revised rules, set to take effect on December 27, 2024, include conducting thorough reviews to identify the most effective hazard control methods, regular assessments of processes affecting equipment durability, and planning and analysis that prioritize. Human factors such as staffing, training, fatigue and task complexity will now be considered more rigorously as well.

Other key components of the updated rules involve conducting root cause analyses following significant accidents, frequent evaluations of hazards, safeguards and mechanical factors, and the continuous update of safety programs to align with process changes.

The creation of these rules involved input from various stakeholders, including refinery operators, workers and community advocates. L&I facilitated this process through public hearings and open forums for written comments. More details are available on the L&I website.

About the Author

Robert Yaniz Jr. is the Content Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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