Proposals announced to augment safety at California oil refineries

Let the comment period and public hearings begin.

That is generally the way it works in California following proposals regarding workplace safety measures and recommendations, and that is what is now unfolding in the wake of recently announced rules that could soon take legal effect.

Those rules are termed "a landmark set of regulations" in a recent news service press release describing them. As that publication notes, the proposals are intended "to strengthen workplace and environmental safety at oil refineries across the state."

For anyone doubting that the regulations do not comprise a big-deal focus, a reference to the major refinery fire in Richmond four years ago might duly serve as a reminder that they do. Safety-related glitches at refineries can quickly bring about human tragedy and environmental fallout on a vast scale.

And, of course, the economic costs associated with an adverse refinery event can be stunningly high. As just one indication of that, we note that fuel-supply disruptions owing to refinery shutdowns reportedly cost the state about $800 million in an "average" year.

And thus the intended improvements. There are two key regulations that have been developed through the interactive working efforts of various California departments and agencies, including the state's Environmental Protection Agency. The proposals are termed "complementary," and focus on the following matters, respectively:

  • Updating of Cal/OSHA refinery regulations addressing workers' safety; and
  • Shoring up protections to guard against the accidental discharge of toxic substances

Periodic worksite safety assessments by regulators are anticipated by the regulations, as is the enhanced ability of workers to anonymously report dangerous conditions.

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