Safety Alert for Oil and Chemical Facilities Following Hurricane Harvey


Washington, DC  – The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has issued a Safety Alert urging oil and chemical facilities to take special precautions when restarting in the wake of shutdowns due to Hurricane Harvey.

The startup of major processes at chemical facilities is a hazardous phase and facilities should pay particular attention to process safety requirements during this critical period to assure a safe and expeditious return to normal operations.

“Restarting a refinery poses a significant safety risk, said Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. “When operators follow established startup procedures and checklists, it reduces the risk to a catastrophic accident that could cost lives and incur substantial product disruptions.”

Restarting a complex petrochemical process requires a higher level of attention and care than normal processing, because numerous activities are occurring simultaneously and many automatic systems are run under manual control. Because a significant number of facilities were shut down during Hurricane Harvey, there will be a significant number of facilities restarting, which will increase the risk to safety.

The Safety Alert outlines specific procedures to assure safe restarts under the headings, “Rely on Established Safety Systems” and “Check Process Equipment Thoroughly.” For example, facilities are urged to follow established startup procedures and checklists, and to recognize that “human performance may be compromised due to crisis conditions.”

Additional safety protocols require checking bulk storage tanks for evidence of floating displacement or damage, and to examine insulation systems, sewers, drains, furnace systems, electric motors and other equipment, including warning systems, to make sure they are fully functional.