An Occupational Safety Hazard Administration investigation into a September 2022 refinery explosion in Ohio found BP at fault for operational and training deficiencies.
The Sept. 20, 2022, blast inflicted fatal burns on two workers, brothers Max and Ben Morrissey, 34 and 32 years old respectively.
The pair were trying to correct the level of liquid in an oil drum when a cloud of flammable vapor formed and sparked, causing the blast. The two men would die of their injuries the next day.
OSHA proposed civil penalties of $156,520 for BP Products North America, the U.S. subsidiary of global oil company that owned the refinery, and wrote the company up for 10 serious violations that contributed to the death of the Morrissey brothers, including:
– A failure to prevent the overfill of flammable liquid within the equipment, thanks to an open valve that should have been closed and an anti-overfill valve being closed when it should have been open.
– A failure to keep safety procedures and emergency protocols up to date regarding equipment and outside operators.
– A failure to prevent the open drainage of flammable liquid, which exposed workers to chemical fumes like hydrogen sulfide (swamp gas) and other fire hazards.
“Federal safety standards require BP Products North America Inc. to develop company wide process safety and response procedures that address worst-case scenarios. This tragedy is a reminder of why employers must consistently reevaluate those procedures for accuracy and ensure workers are properly trained to respond in dangerous situations,” said Todd Jensen, the OSHA Area Director for the agency’s Toledo office.
The refinery has been shut down since the incident, but is slated for a mid-May reopening by new owner Cenovus Energy, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Cenovus had owned 50% of the facility, and closed on its acquisition of the other 50% on Feb. 28.
“BP is committed to safe and reliable operations at all of our facilities. We have been actively cooperating with OSHA as it investigates the Toledo incident and we will review the citations and continue our discussions with the agency,” BP spokesperson Christina Audisho told The Washington Times in a statement.
The United Steelworkers union, which represents the plant, told the Toledo Blade newspaper that “while no penalties or fines could ever make up for the lost human lives, we welcome their findings and their efforts to hold BP accountable.
“Moving forward, our union remains committed to working with OSHA and Cenovus, the facilities’ new owner, to ensure this type of tragedy never happens again,” the union said.