This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Texas City Refinery Explosion. Is it any safer to work in the oil refinery industry since then? That’s not an easy question to answer. It’s difficult to get a yardstick out to measure safety. But if we consider the number of deaths in the 10 years before the Texas City event and 10 years after, it is not much different: 64 vs 58 respectively. Even counting deaths and injuries proved challenging due to a number of reasons: contract workers vs. employees, process safety vs. personal safety, counting methods by government vs. manufacturers, according to research by The Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle.
There are some inherent hazards in working in a refinery. However some of the findings for major causes of death and injury involve worker location. It takes people to do certain jobs, but they should only be there for the least amount of time to complete their tasks. It may be inconvenient to have to travel away from the site for lunches or meetings but if that’s what is needed to reduce the risk of injury then that’s what should be done. After incident investigators advised keeping people from harm’s way, pop-up tents and trailers are creeping into the hazardous areas again.
It seems that safety has different meaning for different people. Trying to do things the easy way or the fast way is not always the safe way. Assessing risk properly involves competency, understanding, probably courage to say things your boss or peers might not want to hear.