Turnaround Incident Involving Multiple Contractors - Were Procedures Bypassed?

Litigation, North America

During a maintenance turnaround at a large refinery, which required the services of multiple contractor companies for a single complex modification, multiple company interfaces were necessary to conduct the work. After an incident resulted in a personal injury, we were retained to assess the activities and work practices of each party and its respective responsibilities. Our conclusions were submitted in an expert report.

In the refining industry scheduled maintenance shutdowns, also known as turnarounds (TA), are performed to enable safe and reliable operations for a three-to-five-year operating cycle or until the next TA. Capital projects and equipment modifications are also often performed during a TA.

A TA presents unique risks - e.g., confined space entry, energy isolation, hot work - that are not typical during routine operations. OSHA regulations and company work practices, such as performing job safety analyses and issuing safe work permits (SWPs), have been developed to address and minimize these risks. However, risks are compounded by the large number of contractors and operating company departments involved in these activities. Such was the case in the installation of two spool pieces on a process unit flare header when an injuring over-pressure incident ejected a pipe plug, a contractor.

There were three primary companies associated with the incident: (1) the operating company that issued SWPs and prepared the equipment for work by isolating it and keeping under nitrogen pressure during the installation; (2) a specialty contractor that performed cold cuts to remove pipe sections and then, to enable a nitrogen purge during the work, installed plugs in the open ends of the flare header; and (3) a construction contractor that then welded on flanges and installed the spool pieces.

Baker & O'Brien was engaged to assess all of the activities by each company and determine the contributing factors to the incident. Our conclusions were submitted in an expert report.

Melvin M. Sinquefield

Senior Consultant

Petroleum Refining
Standard of Care / Accident / Incident Investigation / Litigation / Expert Witness Testimony / Operations and Maintenance / OSHA-related / Forensic Analysis
North America