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OSHA's petroleum refinery regulations scaled back

Workers at Illinois petroleum refineries may be concerned about their safety on the job, especially after an administrative review decision that reduced charges against an employer regarding workplace safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses safety standards for petroleum refineries that have been challenged on the basis of vagueness. In the case at hand, OSHA fined BP $2,870,000 for violations of Process Safety Management rules for the handling of highly hazardous chemicals at a refinery in Ohio. This included 65 different violations enclosed in one willful citation.

However, on appeal, an administrative law judge upheld only five of the citations, reducing the massive fine to only $35,000. While the Secretary of Labor appealed the decision, it was upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Some workers are concerned that this decision could give employers the green light to maintain unsafe working conditions at refineries. The most prominent issue in the case concerned the use of the term "Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Principles", or RAGAGEP. While the term is widely used in the OSHA regulations, it is not defined in the text.

OSHA often issued citations for multiple violations of the same standard, wrapping multiple fines into one overall citation. However, the decision of the Review Commission challenges this practice, saying that companies can have "multiple RAGAGEPs" based on their own processes and deliberations. It did note that employers had a responsibility to show a sound basis for their decisions.

Workers in petroleum plants may worry about their protections in case of an accident. Petroleum refinery incidents can be severe, leading to serious injuries. Victims might want to have legal assistance when seeking their rightful workers' compensation benefits.

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