Fatigue played role in blast

BP refinery operators had been working 12-hour shifts for 29 consecutive days or more, US federal investigators found as they probed the fatal accident at BP’s refinery in Texas.

“Fatigue causes cognitive fixation and impaired judgment,” said Cheryl MacKenzie, an investigator with the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board.

BP had no corporate or site-specific fatigue prevention policy or regulations, the CSB said. The contract between the United Steelworker Union and BP provided a requirement for a minimum number of hours per work week but no maximum.

BP said “operators were expected to work” the 12-hour, seven-days a week schedule for turnarounds, which are planned shutdowns that could run more than a month. Time off was allowed if they scheduled a vacation, used personal/vacation time or had extenuating circumstances that would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Fatigue prevention regulations have been developed for aviation and other transportation sectors but there are no guidelines widely used and accepted in the oil and chemical sector, the CSB noted.

It called on the American Petroleum Institute, a leading trade organisation, and the United Steelworkers International Union, the largest union representing refinery workers, to develop a new standard for fatigue prevention in the industry.

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