CSB Calls for Revised Guidelines on Siting Refinery Trailers

WILLIAM E. Wright, a board member of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), asked the American Petroleum Institute (API) to revise its draft recommended practices for siting portable buildings in and around hazardous areas of refineries and chemical plants.

The CSB issued an urgent recommendation to API to update the guidelines for portable work buildings in August 2005, following the explosion at the BP Texas City refinery in March of that year. Fifteen contract workers were killed. Most had been working in or near portable trailers located near hazardous process equipment.

Speaking at the 22nd Annual International Conference of the Center for Chemical Process Safety, an arm of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Wright stated, "Our investigation of the tragedy at the BP refinery showed an urgent need for the industry to revamp its procedures for locating trailers and other portable buildings. While we appreciate the response by API to our recommendations, we are concerned that their draft Recommended Practice 753 does not effectively address the issue and would fall short of providing workers the safety they need when working in temporary facilities at petrochemical plants."

API indicated to the Board that it would be seeking to issue the guidance in final form during the first half of 2007.

Wright told the CCPS conference, held as part of the 3rd Global Congress on Process Safety, that the CSB's concerns include the following:

  • The API guideline fails to establish minimum safe distances for trailers and similar structures from hazardous areas of process plants.
  • It does not provide specific guidance to protect occupants from accident hazards.
  • It fails to comprehensively address the potential hazards of trailers.
  • It does not include a clear definition of occupancy and fails to explicitly include other requirements that would help ensure safety.

CSB informed API that the guidance should include a strong emphasis on reducing to a minimum the use of temporary structures as well as the number of personnel authorized to occupy them, and strict limitations on the use of portable structures for any personnel during periods of increased risk, such as startups and shutdowns.

API (http://www.api.org) is the largest oil industry association. For more information about CSB's concerns stemming from the BP explosion, visit http://www.csb.gov.

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