Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

BP gets record fine for 2005 blast

BP has been given a record fine for a 2005 Texas refinery explosion

Beleaguered oil giant BP has agreed to pay a record 50.6 million US dollar (£32.5 million) fine for safety failings at its Texas City oil refinery after a 2005 explosion which killed 15 workers.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it was still working to collect another 30 million US dollars (£19.3 million) for other penalties the company is contesting.

The fine is the largest penalty issued in OSHA's history, and US Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said the size of the penalty reflected BP's "disregard for workplace safety".

She said: "This agreement achieves our goal of protecting workers at the refinery and ensuring that critical safety upgrades are made as quickly as possible. The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP's disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day."

In addition to paying the fine, BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to take immediate steps to protect those now working at the refinery, allocating a minimum of 500 million US dollars (£321 million) to this effort.

Under the arrangement, BP will immediately begin safety reviews of its refinery equipment and will make permanent corrections, the US Department of Labor said.

The deal also provides an unprecedented level of oversight of the company's safety programme, including regular meetings with OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labour, frequent site inspections and the submission of quarterly reports.

After a lengthy legal battle which has rumbled on since 2005, OSHA and BP have agreed to settle the matter and to focus on moving forward collaboratively in order to continue to improve plant safety, a BP spokesman said.

Iain Conn, BP's global head of refining and marketing, said: "We respect OSHA's concerns and have addressed them in this agreement. BP has a stated goal to become a leader in process safety and we look forward to working collaboratively with OSHA to achieve an injury-free workplace in our operations."

The Texas City blast was the deadliest accident in the nation's gas and chemical industry since an explosion at an Arco Chemical plant in nearby Channelview killed 17 people in 1990.

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