California approves new safety regulations for oil refineries


New regulations to improve workplace and environmental safety compliance at oil refineries across the state of California have been approved by multiple state agencies.

Expected to be implemented from 1 October, the new norms comprise recommendations of the Governor's Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety, which was formed in the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire in 2012.

The Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) worked in partnership with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to develop the safety framework, which is aimed at making refineries operating in the region safer.

Cal OES director Mark Ghilarducci said: "These new regulations increase overall preparedness, provide greater accountability and implement a nation-leading approach to public safety and emergency prevention at refineries."

The new regulations are expected to be an enhancement over the existing Cal/OSHA worker safety regulations and the California Accidental Release Prevention programme (CalARP).

"These new regulations increase overall preparedness, provide greater accountability and implement a nation-leading approach to public safety and emergency prevention at refineries."

Under the norms, refinery operators will have greater accountability for the mechanical integrity of equipment and are required to conduct periodic workplace safety culture assessments.

Additionally, they empower refinery personnel to shut down a unit in the event of an unsafe condition or emergency.

California Environmental Protection Secretary Matthew Rodriquez said: "The goal of these regulations is to hold refineries accountable for the safety of workers and communities.

"Thanks to input from refinery workers, industry leaders and environmental and community organisations, we can better anticipate problems and prevent accidents that might pose serious risks to the public and environment."

At present, 15 oil refineries are located in densely populated regions of California.