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  • Refinery Safety at a Glance

    The refining sector’s most valued assets are its employees, and workplace safety is of paramount importance to domestic refiners. The refining sector continues to improve its workplace safety record, despite a work environment that often involves complex process equipment, hazardous materials, and handling materials under high pressures and temperatures. This strong industry safety record is reflected by declines in the industry’s rate of injury and illnesses – a rate significantly lower than the total recordable incident rate for the entire manufacturing industry.

    Refinery Safety Facts

    • According to the 2012 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)[1], the total recordable incident rate for the manufacturing sector as a whole is 3.9 job-related injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time employees. The 2012 AFPM Occupational Injury & Illness Report* total recordable incident rate for both company employees and onsite contractors working at petroleum refining facilities was 0.5 incidents per 100 full time employees. Out of these recordable incidents, 79% of injuries were so minor that the worker returned to work immediately.
    • No serious injuries or fatalities are acceptable, and industry continuously works to minimize the risk of serious injuries at refineries. BLS data indicates refining businesses have been reducing the risk of all injuries – including serious injuries and fatalities - for the last 20 years. Based on 2012 AFPM data, the petroleum refining sector suffered .0042 fatalities per every 100 full-time employees. This number is lower than the fatality rate for wood product manufacturing, taxi and limousine services, waste collection services and postal service.
     Comparison of BLS Rates for Petroleum Refining to that of other U.S. Sectors: 2012
    Injury & Illness Incident Rates per 100 Full Time Employees- AFPM Petroleum Refining Members
    Injury & Illness Rates for 100 Full Time Employeess - AFPM Refining Members vs General Manufacturing

    * Occupational Injury & Illness data is one metric used in accordance with OSHA’s Recordkeeping Standard 29 CFR 1904 to benchmark safety at workplaces.  The downward trend is indicative of an industry that has a strong management commitment to safety and health and strives for a culture of continuous improvement.  The injury and illness data measures the rate individuals are injured and while it doesn’t measure all process safety upsets, it does record all injuries resulting from a process safety upset and all occupational injuries.

    [1] BLS rates are based on a sample rather a census of the entire population and do not include contractor injury & illnesses numbers in their calculations. The AFPM data is a census of AFPM member companies and contains approximately 97% of the US refining capacity and includes a majority of those site’s contractor numbers as well.

    Safety in the Refining and Petrochemical Industries

    Background. Safety is the highest priority for the refining and petrochemical industry, and the industry’s safety record is concrete evidence of its commitment to continuously improving its performance.  The refining industry has reduced its injury and illness rate by 66 percent since 2001, and its injury and illness remains 87 percent lower than the average rate across all manufacturing sectors.  Although the industry is already a leader in process and occupational safety, it continues to take voluntary actions to improve and raise the bar for all industry players, while serving as an example for other manufacturing sectors.

    Regulatory Requirements. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and Chemical Safety Board all play important roles in setting standards or investigating incidents to develop learnings that can help prevent future incidents.  In particular, OSHA is responsible for both occupational and process safety and EPA has additional authority to regulate process safety under its Risk Management Program.   OSHA’s process safety standards require companies to address 14 different process safety elements that reduce process safety risks associated with equipment, instrumentation, utilities, human actions (routine and nonroutine), contractors, incident investigations and external factors that might impact the process.   OSHA also has the authority to make mandatory certain engineering practices that are “recognized and generally accepted as good engineering practices. Finally, despite recent management challenges, CSB is an important entity that can help provide root cause analysis to develop lessons-learned and help avert future incidents.

    Industry Actions. In addition to complying with federal and state regulatory requirements, the industry invests significant resources on both the individual company and collective levels that go above and beyond regulatory requirements. These include sponsoring learning organizations to advance new technologies and studies, participating in industry led programs to enhance the safety performance of the whole industry, developing new safety standards, and participating in industry technical forums to share lessons learned. Nor are these initiatives static- they constantly evolve with the state of knowledge. Some examples include:

    • AFPM hosts an industry safety online educational resource that contains important government agency reports on previous incidents, presentations from safety conferences, safety alerts, statistical reports, and other analytical resources to help members continuously improve process safety.
    • AFPM hosts meetings for a variety of safety committees and networks more than 30 times throughout the year.These groups include a general safety committee that include corporate safety leaders as well as site safety management, an industrial hygiene group, and process safety regional networks that are site level process safety practitioners.
    • AFPM and API hold safety focused workshops with government agencies and the unions.
    • API’s Global Industry Services department offers a formal service that uses qualified, highly experienced 3rd party assessors to evaluate and provide feedback on plant process safety systems.
    • API maintains more than 600 standards—recommended practices, specifications, codes, technical publications, reports and studies—that cover all aspects of the oil and natural gas industry, including 160 focused on refinery operations.

    The combination of these (and many other) industry efforts coupled with OSHA and EPA RMP programs work well to make the U.S. refining and petrochemical industry among the safest manufacturing sectors.