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California oil refinery safety rules approved, effective Oct. 1

California oil refinery safety rules approved, effective Oct. 1

California regulators have announced final approval of new regulations aimed at preventing incidents such as the 2012 Chevron Corp. fire at oil refineries.

The regulations, which take effect Oct. 1, implement key recommendations of the Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety, created after the incident at Chevron, which recently reached an agreement with state regulators to settle workplace safety citations.

The new regulations overhaul state worker safety regulations that apply to refineries and the California Accidental Release Prevention program, which is designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances that could harm public health and the environment, according to a statement issued by the Department of Industrial Relations on Friday.

Key features of the regulations include increased employer accountability for the mechanical integrity of refinery equipment, requirements to adopt inherently safer designs and systems to the greatest extent feasible, and increased employee involvement in all aspects of the safety and prevention program.

The requirements also include periodic workplace safety culture assessments to evaluate whether management is appropriately emphasizing safety over production pressures, authority for refinery personnel to shut down a unit, if needed, in the event of an unsafe condition or emergency, and provisions for anonymous reporting of safety hazards.

In addition, they include requirements for investigations to determine root causes of any incidents that occur and develop interim and permanent corrective measures in response, as well as for annual public reporting of refinery safety metrics under the program.

“These new regulations increase overall preparedness, provide greater accountability and implement a nation-leading approach to public safety and emergency prevention at refineries,” California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said in a statement.

California has 15 oil refineries, most of which are located in densely populated areas of Los Angeles and the eastern San Francisco Bay Area, and many of which have adopted some of the newly required practices, leading to improved safety performance. But the industry still experiences major incidents that pose a significant risk to refinery workers and nearby communities, according to the department.

The regulations were developed by the department, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Environmental Protection Agency.

“The goal of these regulations is to hold refineries accountable for the safety of workers and communities,” said Matthew Rodriquez, California secretary for environmental protection.


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