NPR logo BP Refinery Safety Record Industry's Worst: Watchdog

BP Refinery Safety Record Industry's Worst: Watchdog

BP's safety record has come under intense scrutiny ever since the blowout and resulting explosion at its Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig led to the deaths of 11 workers, injuries to others, and the still uncontrolled spewing of tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

On Monday, the Center for Public Integrity reported that its analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration records for the energy giant revealed that it has racked up far more serious safety violations at its refineries than its competitors.

In a report with the unambiguous title "Renegade Refiner: OSHA Says BP Has Systemic Safety Problem" the CPI, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group writes that 97 percent of the worst violations were found at BP refineries.

An excerpt from it's report:

BP is battling a massive oil well spill in the Gulf of Mexico after an April 20 platform blast that killed 11 workers. But the firm has been under intense OSHA scrutiny since its refinery in Texas City, Texas, exploded in March 2005, killing 15 workers. While continuing its probe in Texas City, OSHA launched a nationwide refinery inspection program in June 2007 in response to a series of fires, explosions and chemical releases throughout the industry.

Refinery inspection data obtained by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act for OSHA's nationwide program and for the parallel Texas City inspection show that BP received a total of 862 citations between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio.

Of those, 760 were classified as "egregious willful" and 69 were classified as "willful." Thirty of the BP citations were deemed "serious" and three were unclassified. Virtually all of the citations were for alleged violations of OSHA's process safety management standard, a sweeping rule governing everything from storage of flammable liquids to emergency shutdown systems. BP accounted for 829 of the 851 willful violations among all refiners cited by OSHA during the period analyzed by the Center.

Top OSHA officials told the Center in an interview that BP was cited for more egregious willful violations than other refiners because it failed to correct the types of problems that led to the 2005 Texas City accident even after OSHA pointed them out. In Toledo, problems were corrected in one part of the refinery but went unaddressed in another. Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said it was clear that BP "didn't go nearly far enough" to correct deficiencies after the 2005 blast.

"The only thing you can conclude is that BP has a serious, systemic safety problem in their company," Barab said.