Monday 23 March 2020 marked the 15th anniversary of the BP Texas City Refinery incident in the USA. At 1.20pm on 23 March 2005, catastrophic explosions and fires destroyed a large area of the refinery claiming the lives of 15 people and injuring 180 others. This incident was one of the worst industrial disasters in our industry in recent history.

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) launched a wide-ranging investigation that went way beyond the technical details of the incident to include a searching examination of BP’s culture at all levels of the company.

The investigation concluded that the incident was caused by organisational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP corporation. In particular the CSB report stated that:

  1. Warning signs of a possible disaster were present for several years – the result of a weak safety culture and a deficient process safety management program
  2. The refinery continued to use obsolete equipment rather than the safest modern designs.

In the years since the tragedy at the Texas City refinery, the CSB has observed that these types of problems have continued to lead to preventable incidents and avoidable deaths in our industry.

Safer Together has developed a toolbox talk to commemorate this tragic incident and encourages member companies to pause and reflect on what happened 15 years ago and the lessons for our industry. The toolbox talk covers:

  1. what happened on that day;
  2. the consequences of the incident, in terms of people, plant, financial and reputational impacts;
  3. the contributing factors that led to the incident;
  4. thought-provoking questions about whether the issues that led to this tragedy are being effectively controlled today; and
  5. some of the tools available through Safer Together aimed at tackling a range of the issues that led to this particular incident, and which have continued to be contributing factors in other incidents in the 15 years since the tragedy at Texas City refinery. 

The questions this toolbox talk raises are relevant to all companies and people involved in our industry, not just those that work in a major hazard facility where large quantities of hazardous materials are stored, handled or processed.

Suggested next steps:

  1. How much do you and your team know about the incident? Click here to take a 5-minute quiz to find out.
  2. Click here to download the toolbox talk. Use it to facilitate a discussion with your team.