Washington State Department of Labor & Industries Enhances Safety Measures for Refineries

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has taken a significant step toward strengthening the safety of petroleum refinery workers by updating its Process Safety Management (PSM) rules. This move, prompted by historical incidents, such as the 2010 Tesoro explosion and the 1998 Equilon incident, represents a pivotal shift in addressing hazardous chemicals in refineries.

The creation of these rules involved collaboration with various stakeholders, including refinery operators, workers, and community advocates. L&I facilitated this collaborative process through public hearings and open forums for written comments, ensuring a diverse range of perspectives was considered.

The revised rules, set to be effective from December 27, 2024, prioritize:

  • Conducting evaluations of hazard control to determine the most efficient measures
  • Consistently assessing processes that may pose a threat to equipment integrity
  • Prioritizing risks through careful planning and analysis, followed by the identification and documentation of effective safety measures
  • Taking into account human factors, including staffing levels, turnover, training, fatigue, and task complexity
  • Performing in-depth root cause analyses in the aftermath of significant accidents
  • Regularly analyzing hazards, safeguards, controls, mechanical factors, and process changes, with safety program updates as required
  • Evaluating workplace safety culture to ensure both workers and managers prioritize safety over production

The updated workplace safety rules by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries represent a comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to safeguarding the well-being of petroleum refinery workers. With a focus on proactive risk reduction, thorough evaluations, and continuous improvements, these rules set a new standard for refinery safety. 

The involvement of stakeholders and the public in the rule-making process demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity and transparency, making these regulations among the most protective in the nation for refinery workers. For further details, the complete proposed rule is available on the L&I website.