It seems the ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont, Texas is under scrutiny because since 2013, at least one person has died in a fatal workplace accident every year. This year’s victim was a contract worker who was struck by a pipe when it fell from overhead while he was fixing a heat exchanger. The damage to the worker’s spine and head was too severe to survive and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Given that at least one worker has died each year since 2013, it is not surprising that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has paid ExxonMobil a few visits. In 2013, a flash fire occurred while maintenance was being performed on a heat exchanger inside the Beaumont refinery plant. Twelve workers were injured and two died due to the severe burns they sustained. Last September, a worker was knocked off a bulldozer and drowned in a scorching pit of wastewater at the Port Arthur, Texas refinery. As it turns out, the worker was using a bulldozer rather than an overhead crane because the crane had been out of service for months.
Is ExxonMobil Putting Workers at Risk?
ExxonMobil processes approximately 365,000 barrels of crude oil every day. Crude oil contains thousands of different types of hydrocarbons and chemical compounds, making it a potentially dangerous substance to work with. When a refinery company does not comply with safety regulations, it puts workers at risk for injuries from chemical exposure, fires and explosions. Employers should do the following to protect refinery workers from burns or other types of injuries:
- Provide proper protective gear, including hearing protection, safety glasses and respiratory protection gear
- Ensure that all respiratory equipment is fit-tested
- Ensure that all safe work permits are up-to-date
- Ensure that all workers are properly trained to handle their equipment
- Ensure that all workers are trained in recognizing and responding to safety alarms in place
- Ensure that all sewers are covered when hot work is conducted
- Ensure that all piping and pumps are isolated and bonded with solid plates
While they can seem like an inherently hazardous work environment, refineries generally present a low risk to workers when proper safety procedures are adhered to. Cutting corners on safety and endangering refinery workers can lead to injury.