OSHA, EPA issues new safety bulletin for refinery operations

By OGJ editors

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 3 -- The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration in association with the US Environmental Protection Agency Aug. 29 issued a safety bulletin about the hazards associated with refineries' delayed coker units (DCUs).

The two regulators said the bulletin is designed to supplement what they called "active industry efforts" to exchange fire and safety technology and to increase awareness of environmental and occupational hazards associated with DCU operations.

"It is important that workers, employers, and emergency responders understand the fundamental hazards and risks associated with (DCUs)," said OSHA administrator John Henshaw. "This bulletin provides practical advice on how to identify common hazards and how to minimize risk when working with this equipment."

OSHA and EPA said that the batch portion of DCU operations (drum switching and coke cutting) create "unique hazards, resulting in relatively frequent and serious accidents."

According to US government data, one out of every three refineries in the US has a DCU; there are 53 DCUs now in operation in the US. Regulators noted that the increasingly limited supply of higher quality crude oil has meant that refiners have to rely on more intensive, and often times more dangerous, processing techniques.

The bulletin also includes information on controlling hazards, modifying operations to control risk, actively maintaining an effective emergency response program, and familiarizing workers about risks and emergency procedures to help reduce serious incidents.

NPRA response
National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Pres. Bob Slaughter said, "The recent safety bulletin issued by OSHA and EPA on the hazards associated with the operations of delayed coker units at refineries is a positive step and will be very helpful to our refining members in their efforts to maintain safety performance and practices at their facilities.

"Our members recognize that superior safety performance is fundamental to their business success, their employees and the communities where they operate. They are committed to achieving and maintaining the highest possible safety standards," he said.

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