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TESORO Refinery fire in Anacortes, WA

by Robert Randle  
4/07/2010 / Events

It is tragic that such an event happened at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, WA which resulted in the tragic deaths of at last five people and two other workers received severe burns over fifty percent of their body. The thing that probably goes unnoticed is that many of the nation's refineries and chemical plants are at least thirty years old and could present an ever-present danger to some sort of incident that happened here. All of these facilities have to keep up with the ever-growing demand to increase output and meet the latest stringent environmental regulations. There aren't enough inspectors within the Federal and State EPA, OSHA, or DOE to adequately monitor and check the safety of hundreds of plants.

These facilities contain thousands of gallons of highly volatile and reactive chemical components (hydrocarbons) and although reasonable measures are in place to prevent a major catastrophe from happening, it does occur from time to time; with deadly results. Although "SAFETY FIRST" is the mantra of these companies, when it comes down to expenditures for retrofitting old equipment for increased production as opposed to the cost for purchasing newer equipment, as well meeting governmental regulations to reduce pollution of the environment, safety is sometimes compromised.

Of course, it is also true that accidents do happen, and when it does it usually results in significant harm to persons and property. Not all sensors and monitors are calibrated on a regular basis or frequently enough, and some equipment does not always respond the way it should during an emergency. Even workers at these plants know the inherent dangers associated with their workplace and in the industry that they are in, but are willing to take the risk because of earning the big bucks with lots of overtime and other benefits like pension, sick leave, personal days off, etc.

As long as society craves the hundreds of by-products that can be derived from refining or cooking crude oil at high temperatures and pressure, then demand will drive these plants to perhaps take short cuts on safety to meet production goals. This does not rule out human error or lack of adequate training which can result in an industrial accident, but the verdict is out regarding whom to blame.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 6, 2010

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