Posted by | March 9, 2011 11:25 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

The Center for Public Integrity has a new report out on the dangers of working at oil refineries.  They point out how minor safety violations are often ignored by refinery managers and that these violations are excellent predictors of explosions and other disasters.  And refineries have many tools to ward off government enforcement.

Safety rules are on the books, but enforcement, if it happens at all, frequently results in a standoff: A federal or state agency inspects a refinery, finds violations, issues citations … and waits. Oil companies routinely challenge even the most minor allegations, mindful that any admission of fault could haunt them if they were sued or prosecuted following an accident. When a refiner appeals, 609 days pass, on average, before the case is closed — a time frame almost 20 percent longer than the average for all industries, a Center analysis of a decade of enforcement data shows.

Even in incidents where people died and regulators cited companies for willful violations — defined by OSHA as those that involve either an intentional flouting of the law or “plain indifference” to it — companies almost always assert that the tragedies were unforeseeable. Sometimes, the enforcers simply give up: Nearly a quarter of all fines proposed against refiners from January 2000 through June 2010 were erased from the books, a dismissal rate 2 1/2 times that of U.S. industry as a whole, the Center found.

Rudy Giuliani was rightly praised for his criminal enforcement strategy of getting tough on minor violations like graffiti in the idea that this would prevent more serious crimes.  The government needs to adopt this attitude with businesses and make it easier to cite them for violations that are minor in nature (and harder to appeal such citations).  Lives are at stake.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Alan

Alan Colmes is the publisher of Liberaland.