September 29, 2022

CSB: Deficient Hot Work Policies Led to 2016 Explosion at Texas Oil Terminal

Flawed hot work policies and procedures were to blame for a flash fire at a Texas crude oil terminal that injured seven workers, according to a final report issued yesterday by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. The incident occurred on Aug. 12, 2016, when a welding operation on a capped pipe that contained residual crude oil ignited vapor inside the pipe, leading to an explosion. CSB found that Sunoco, which owned the terminal, and L-Con, the contractor that performed the welding work, did not provide adequate guidance to employees for preventing the fire and explosion. According to the CSB report, the hot work procedure should have stated that neither OSHA nor NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work, permit hot work on equipment that contains flammable material.

“The CSB wants industry to look at existing regulations and guidance when implementing and developing their hot work practices and procedures,” said Lauren Johnson, CSB’s supervisory investigator. “There is a lot of information out there, and it needs to be utilized properly.”

In a news release, CSB states that the explosion highlights the importance of properly isolating equipment according to OSHA requirements and guidance from the National Fire Protection Association; thoroughly identifying and assessing all flammables and combustibles in hot work; and methods for preventing hot work incidents.

CSB’s report on the 2016 incident can be downloaded as a PDF. Information about safe hot work practices is available from the agency website.