Thousands of Americans are employed in oil refineries and chemical plants throughout the United States. These workers are vital to the nation’s production of gasoline and other products that are used across the country on a daily basis. However, working in refineries or chemical plants can be an extremely dangerous job. Workers at these jobs face risks from falls, chemical hazards, exposure to toxic substances, fires, and explosions. With these constant threats, safety practices are essential to protect workers and reduce the risk of catastrophic workplace events.
Explosions are a main hazard in plants and refineries across the country. In response to the threats from explosions, and their potential for serious injuries, federal agencies have been established to create and enforce rules designed to protect worker safety. Here, we will examine the roles played by federal agencies and how various regulations work in tandem to achieve safety goals.
As always, if you or a family member have been affected by an explosion, you should contact an experienced national explosion accident lawyer for help. Here at Burg Simpson, we are here to speak with you about your case at any time.
The Role of OSHA in Plant Regulation
In 1970, Congress established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was designed to regulate workplace safety and to promote employee well-being. The agency does this by adopting and enforcing regulations and safety standards across industries, including refining and manufacturing.
As a federal agency, OSHA has regulatory authority over employers in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other territories. OSHA’s authority extends to investigating potential violations of its rules and enforcing penalties for the violations.
Rules Affecting Plants and Refineries
Employers are required to protect their workers from serious hazards and to comply with OSHA health and safety standards. Among other things, OSHA regulations address the following:
- Preventing exposure to harmful chemicals
- Put guards on dangerous machines
- Provide respirators and safety equipment
- Providing training standards for dangerous jobs
Chemical Release and Exposures
OSHA has developed and passed a Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation. The PSM regulation is aimed to prevent the accidental release of chemicals that could threaten employees. Many explosions happen because of the release of harmful combustible chemicals into the air. Some requirements of the PSM regulation are:
- Conducting a hazard analysis to identify and control potentially harmful chemicals
- Documenting all operational procedures, including initial startup, and emergency shutdowns
- Routine inspections of all units and equipment, including storage tanks, piping systems, pressure vessels, and relief vents
- Issuing permits for workers performing welding and other high-temperature operations
Investigating Plant Explosions
When an explosion does occur, OSHA’s Process Management regulation requires that plant operators investigate incidents that took place at their facilities. An investigation must begin within 48 hours of the explosion, and includes the following:
- Details about the incident
- Factors contributing to the explosion
- When the explosion took place
- When the investigation started
- Any changes that should be made to prevent a recurrence
When an employee is killed or suffers any type of work-related hospitalization or serious injury, OSHA must be notified. For a work-related death, the agency must be notified within 8 hours and must be notified within 24 hours of a serious injury.
Enforcement of OSHA Regulations
When an OSHA violation takes place, the agency has resources at its disposal to address the violation. OSHA’s main enforcement role takes place when conducting random inspections of workplaces across the country. The agency has a priority inspection list which roughly goes by the following order:
- Situations of imminent danger
- Explosions and catastrophic events resulting in death or serious injuries
- Worker complaints and referrals
- Targeted inspections of workplaces with known hazards or high injury rates
- Follow-up inspections
When a violation of OSHA standards are found, the agency will take action to correct the violations. Employers may face heavy fines and can also be issued a citation for non-compliance. The citation requires the employer to correct the hazard by a certain date or face additional penalties. For extremely serious violations or repeat violations of OSHA rules, an employer can be shut down until corrective action is taken.
The Role of the Chemical Safety Board
The United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is a non-regulatory agency that works to improve worker safety at plants, refineries, and industrial facilities. The CSB is tasked with identifying the causes of chemical explosions that occur across the country. CSB staff consists of chemical and mechanical engineers.
Following an explosion, the team will go to the explosion site and conduct interviews. They will also collect samples for testing and will examine the facility’s records and operating procedures. After several months of investigations, a report will be submitted to the Board. After reviewing reports, the Board may adopt various safety regulations in order to prevent or reduce the risk of explosions moving forward.
National Explosion Accident Lawyers
Our national explosion accident attorneys are standing by to help you at any time. We understand the legal process and have a thorough knowledge of the laws that apply to your case. Our team has many years of experience helping injured explosion accident victims and their families during their time of need. Let us help you move forward and protect yourself and your loved ones following a sudden and unexpected tragedy. Before you talk to a third party about your case, give us a call to see how we can help.
Our firm provides free consultations and case evaluations for all potential and prospective clients. When you are in need of a tough and aggressive law firm, you can count on us to deliver the best results. There is no financial obligation until we obtain a recovery on your behalf. Your time to act could be limited, so you should reach out as soon as possible in order to avoid the potential loss of your legal rights. To schedule your appointment with one of our nationwide gas explosion lawyers, please reach out to us using our online intake form or give us a call at (866) 637-1207.