The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has accused oil giant BP of ten “serious violations” of safety management and one “other-than-serious” violation after two workers died at one of the company’s US refineries last year.

A federal investigation into the deaths of the two workers at a BP refinery unit in Oregon, Ohio, found that the company had violated the Department of Labor’s process safety procedures 11 times, and caused the administration to levy fines of over $150,000 at the company.

OSHA inspectors found that BP had failed to properly train workers in health and safety protocol and had neglected to implement specific procedures for highly hazardous materials. BP has been cited for failing to implement shutdown procedures after naphtha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon, entered the refinery’s fuel gas system.

Two refinery workers died in September last year after an explosion at the Ohio refinery left them with fatal burns. According to the OSHA, “as the workers attempted to correct rising liquid levels in the fuel gas mix drum, a flammable vapour cloud formed, ignited and then triggered an explosion,” causing deadly burns. The agency concluded that the workers had not been adequately trained to identify the presence of naptha.

OSHA area director Todd Jensen said: “Federal safety standards require BP Products North America to develop companywide process safety and response procedures that address worst-case scenarios.”

“This tragedy is a reminder of why employers must consistently re-evaluate those procedures for accuracy and ensure workers are properly trained to respond in dangerous situations,” he added.

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“Safety deficiencies at all levels”

The OSHA issued total proposed penalties of $156,250for BP’s violations of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act. On the OSHA’s list of top enforcement cases in history, a ranking of incidents to have accrued the most total penalties, cases at BP facilities rank first and second.

In 2021, BP was ranked first in a list of the most-fined companies in US oil and gas history, having accumulated $29.2bn in fines due largely to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which is considered one of the worst ecological disasters in history.

BP has been involved in previous high-profile accidents in the US. The disaster at the Deepwater Horizon platform in 2010 killed 11 people. Before this, in 2005, 15 people were killed and 170 injured in an explosion at a Texas refinery, which the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board blamed on “safety deficiencies at all levels”, the Financial Times reported.

Debbie Berkowitz, who served as OSHA chief of staff during the Obama administration, said: “This company has a history of looking the other way when it comes to safety and OSHA has fined them before.” She added that OSHA fines are “notoriously low” compared to other government agencies.

BP said in a statement on Thursday that it 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,” it added.