Labour safety authorities issue BP with a record fine after it fails to eliminate hazards that caused the 2005 Texas City refinery explosion

BP Products North American has been issued with a proposed $87.4m fine for failing to improve safety standards exposed by the deadly Texas City refinery explosion in 2005.

The fine is the largest in the history of the US Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The prior largest total penalty, $21m, was issued in 2005, also against BP.

In March 2005, safety violations at BP's Texas City refinery resulted in a massive explosion — with 15 deaths and 170 people injured.

BP entered into a settlement agreement with OSHA in September of that year, under which the company agreed to corrective actions to eliminate potential hazards similar to those that caused the 2005 tragedy.

The fine comes at the conclusion of a six-month inspection by OSHA, designed to evaluate the extent to which BP has complied with its obligations under the 2005 agreement and OSHA standards.

Since the 2005 incident, four more fatal incidents have occurred at the Texas refinery.

“BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated.

US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

"When BP signed the OSHA settlement from the March 2005 explosion, it agreed to take comprehensive action to protect employees. Instead of living up to that commitment, BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated," said US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

"Fifteen people lost their lives as a result of the 2005 tragedy, and 170 others were injured. An $87m fine won't restore those lives, but we can't let this happen again."

For noncompliance with the terms of the settlement agreement, the BP Texas City Refinery has been issued with 270 “notifications” with an attached penalty of $7,000 times 30 days, the period that the conditions have remained unabated.

OSHA also identified 439 new willful violations for failures to follow industry-accepted controls.

"BP was given four years to correct the safety issues identified pursuant to the settlement agreement, yet OSHA has found hundreds of violations of the agreement and hundreds of new violations. BP still has a great deal of work to do to assure the safety and health of the employees who work at this refinery," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.

The BP Texas City Refinery is the third largest refinery in the United States with a refining capacity of 475,000 barrels of crude per day. It is located on a 1,200-acre facility in Texas City, southeast of Houston in Galveston County.

Background and history

On March 23, 2005, an explosion and fire in the Isomerization Unit of the BP Texas City Refinery resulted in the death of 15 contractor employees and injury of at least 170 other BP employees and contractors.

OSHA initiated safety and health inspections into the March 2005 incident and issued citations and fines totaling over $21 million, the highest penalty that OSHA had ever issued.

March 2007 a US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) report found, "The Texas City disaster was caused by organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation".

OSHA conducted 17 separate inspections at the refinery in the last 4 years.