CSB Urges Action on Gaps in Oversight of Petroleum Storage Facilities

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board urged OSHA and EPA to address regulatory gaps in safety oversight of petroleum storage facilities.

In a final investigation report approved last week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board urged OSHA and EPA to address regulatory gaps in safety oversight of petroleum storage facilities. The report details CSB's findings from its investigation of the 2009 explosion and fire at the Caribbean Petroleum terminal facility in Puerto Rico, which occurred when gasoline overflowed and sprayed out from a large aboveground storage tank. The resulting 107-acre vapor cloud ignited, causing an explosion that damaged approximately 300 homes and businesses. Petroleum also leaked into the soil, waterways, and wetlands surrounding the facility.

The board's investigation found that regulatory deficiencies contributed to the explosions; according to CSB, U.S. regulations do not consider bulk petroleum storage tank terminals such as Caribbean Petroleum to be high-hazard facilities.

"Existing process safety regulations exempt atmospheric storage tanks of gasoline and similar flammable liquids," CSB explained in its news release. "Current regulations only require a single layer of protection against a catastrophic tank overfill—thereby putting workers and nearby communities at potential risk."

For more information, see the full report or watch CSB's new safety video, "Filling Blind," which explains how the incident occurred and describes the board's recommendations.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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