Press Releases

Delaware Delegation Urges OSHA to Tighten Oversight of Oil Refineries

* * * Added Scrutiny Could Help Prevent Disasters * * *

Feb 25 2003

Washington – U.S. Senators Joe Biden and Tom Carper and Congressman Mike Castle today called on the U.S. Department of Labor to increase federal oversight of oil refineries to include aboveground storage tanks, making them subject to more intense federal scrutiny and oversight. If established, certain storage tanks would be subject to review by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), giving the agency the ability to set standards regarding tank specifications, initiate inspections, and dispense fines if a company is in violation of the regulations. The Delegation's request came in response to an investigation conducted by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board of the July, 2001 accident at Motiva that killed one worker and injured eight others. The investigation found that a storage tank containing spent sulfuric acid exploded after hot work being performed at the site ignited flammable vapors leaking from the tank. The Board determined that though the tank had numerous leaks and was severely corroded, Motiva repeatedly postponed its inspection. In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of Labor, the Delegation urged OSHA to include these tanks in their review process: "It is clear that competent maintenance practices and safe work standards could have prevented this tragedy," they wrote. "We strongly support the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazardous Investigation Board's recommendation to expand OSHA's regulatory authority to include aboveground storage tanks and urge you to implement this change in your Process Safety Management Standard as swiftly as possible. We believe that expanding coverage to include aboveground storage tanks will go a long way in reaching our common goal of reducing catastrophic events like the one experienced at the Motiva refinery in Delaware City." Delegation Letter to OSHA
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