More Must Be Done To Control Fatal Workplace Fires In Refineries

In the last 10 years, dozens of workers have been injured by explosions and sudden fires at refineries – from oil refineries to sugar refineries – across the United States. Three such explosions took place right here in Texas:

  • Texas City – BP Refinery; 15 people killed
  • Tyler – Delex U.S. Holdings; 2 people killed
  • Mont Belvieu – Enterprise Products Partners NGL Plant; 1 person killed

More can and must be done by employers to maintain safe working conditions for employees and to avoid fatal workplace accidents like those listed above.

Tony Scott of Houston-based OCS Group says that employers can take steps to minimize the risk of explosion and fire in the workplace and related serious or fatal injuries by making use of Ex-certified equipment.

Ex-certified equipment is approved for use in a potentially explosive area. It is designed to prevent the mixing of flammable vapors, dust or gas, common in a refinery, with ignition sources, such as those created by static electricity. Explosions that cannot be eliminated may instead be contained by this equipment.

Additional ignition sources that can trigger an explosion when mixed with flammable material in refinery include:

  • Electrical, mechanical or frictional arcs/sparks
  • Pyrophoric or chemical reactions
  • Chemical reactions
  • Lightning strikes
  • Exhausts of combustion engines
  • Hot surfaces
  • Welding activities
  • Cigarettes
  • Batteries
  • Thermite action

Combustion engine exhausts were blamed for the fatal workplace explosions at BP’s refinery in Texas City and the Macondo explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

Source: Rigzone, “Ignition Sources: Cutting A Common Thread,” Matthew V. Veazy, December 20, 2012