CSB May Judge API Fatigue Guideline Insufficient

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has scheduled an April 24 meeting in Washington, D.C., to consider its staff's recommendation to find that RP 755, a fatigue prevention guideline for refining and petrochemical industries, doesn't satisfy the board's recommendation following the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has scheduled an April 24 meeting in Washington, D.C., that could result in designating a key recommendation "Open -- Unacceptable Action," from its investigation of the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas. The recomendation called on the United Steelworkers and the American Petroleum Institute to deveop fatigue prevention guidelines for refining and petrochemical industries that, at a minimum, limit hours and days of work and address shift work. API, initially working with the Steelworkers but on its own after the union withdrew from participation, did complete RP 755, a fatigue prevention guideline. Now, the board will consider its staff's recommendation to find that RP755 doesn't satisfy the board's recommendation.

API issued the ANSI-approved RP 755 in April 2010. According to CSB's meeting announcement, its staff reviewed it and found it contributes to chemical safety by calling workplace fatigue "a risk to safe operations" and by suggesting various ways to mitigate fatigue risks, but it doesn't fully meet the intent of the board recommendation. The staff recommends designating Recommendation No. 2005-4-1-TX-7 as "Open -- Unacceptable."

CSB issued the recommendation after finding the operators working in the BP Texas City Refinery's isomerization unit when the explosion occurred March 23, 2005, probably were fatigued from working 12-hour shifts. Some of them had worked as many as 29 consecutive days during a turnaround of the unit prior to its startup, the board found, and it concluded their judgment and problem-solving skills probably were diminished by this, limiting their ability to determine a distillation tower in the unit was overfilling with hydrocarbons.

The April 24 meeting will be the staff's presentation of its analysis to the board, followed by comments from the public.

RP 755 was developed for refineries, petrochemical and chemical operations, natural gas liquefaction plants, and facilities covered by the OSHA Process Safety Management Standard, 29 CFR 1910.119 and is intended to apply to a workforce that is commuting daily to a job location, according to API.

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