Working Group Releases California Refinery Safety Report

One recommendation that will be implemented is creation of an Interagency Refinery Task Force housed within California Environmental Protection Agency.

California's Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety has released its draft report outlining steps to improve both public and worker safety at and near the state's oil refineries. The working group consists of 13 agencies and departments and the governor's office; formed after the Aug. 6, 2012, fire at Chevron's Richmond oil refinery, its mission was to explore ways to improve safety through enhanced oversight of refineries and to strengthen emergency preparedness.

The report takes into account a study by the RAND Corporation and findings by Cal/OSHA, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, and Chevron's own internal investigation. Its recommendations include:

  • Create an Interagency Refinery Task Force by Sept. 1, 2013, housed within the California Environmental Protection Agency, to coordinate agencies' activities and carry out the recommended actions
  • As directed by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, local emergency response agencies should take a number of measures to strengthen and better coordinate emergency response efforts including the creation of refinery-specific provisions within local Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Area Plans for refinery incidents, with aligned radio communications among response officials, and required joint drills and exercises, to improve local emergency response.
  • Strengthen existing regulations and develop new regulations and practices to address the underlying causes of safety problems, including inherently safer systems, periodic assessments of safety culture, complete root-cause analysis after significant accidents or releases, and accounting for human factors to manage and reduce error and improve emergency response.
  • Ensure public input in developing plans for responding to emergencies involving the release of toxic chemicals.
  • Improve alerts and public access to information during emergency events and enhance the presentation and availability of air monitoring information for the general public.

Action on several recommendations is already under way, including preparations to finalize the fee structure to be charged to support 15 additional Cal/OSHA inspector positions, as well as additional ancillary personnel, to review refineries and chemical plants.

The California Air Resources Board, in collaboration with the California Air Pollution Control Officers Association, is releasing a developed in parallel with the Interagency Working Group’s report and focused on toxic air contaminant monitoring, intended to improve knowledge and information sharing for air data in the event of an incident.

The report also recommends enhanced enforcement and increased worker involvement in improving the methods and culture of safety at refineries.

"Getting the Interagency Refinery Task Force up and running will be our top priority," said Cal/EPA Secretary Matt Rodriquez. "We want to put the recommendations of the report into effect as soon as possible to protect worker and public safety at the state's refineries."

"The Interagency Refinery Task Force will strengthen the ability of Cal/OSHA and other state and local agencies to protect workers and communities from refinery related accidents," said Labor & Workforce Development Agency Secretary Marty Morgenstern.

"Working together we have formulated innovative strategies to improve our oversight of refinery safety," said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, Cal/OSHA's parent agency. "Our recommendations are grounded in the experiences and insights of workers, labor representatives, community members, and the refinery industry."

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