Accidents at Refineries At Record Lows

by Jan Frazier

Washington, D.C. (Washington Insider Magazine) –  Jerry Wascom, ExxonMobil’s refining director, was concerned in 2010. Safety improvements had been made in individual operations by the fuel and petrochemical manufacturers; however, there still seemed to be an increase in serious accidents. 

More and more workers were getting hurt; the communities of the plants were losing confidence; industries’ reputations were on a downhill slide. Wascom asked the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers Association (AFPM), “Are we doing enough to protect people?”

Soon, there was a huge shift “in the industries’ approach to safety through a groundbreaking new program called Advancing Process Safety or APS.” This particular program celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2020. 

The program called for collaboration. The industries started to share knowledge about safety incidents which stemmed from America’s refining and petrochemical companies. There has now been a 50 percent drop in incidents “at the nation’s refineries and petrochemical plants since 2011.”

Wascom recalls, “We were very clear about our intentions. This was not a public relations program or an effort to calm the regulators. This was 100 percent about getting better at what we do and, as a result, saving lives. If successful, our results would speak for themselves.”

When Wascom was just 18 years of age, he was on the refinery floor as a laborer. Because of this, he had excellent knowledge about the facility’s operations. Wascom understood that in order to have more safety measures endorsed, there needed to be a “collective push.” 

Jim Mahoney was one of the early collaborators. Mahoney was then executive vice president of operations at Koch Industries. He immediately understood the value of collaboration.

Mahoney stated, “There’s nothing more important than protecting people. Mahoney was serving as chairman of the AFPM board from 2012 to 2014. Mahoney continued by saying, “We decided to come together as an industry back in 2010 and make a commitment to share information to reduce incidents. If we could share information, if we could learn from each other, then we could take our performance as an industry to another level.”

Collaboration was so necessary. “To ensure that mistakes weren’t repeated in a refinery or petrochemical plant in a different company, the industry had to start collaborating.” Now, there are at least 200 companies that have gained knowledge from APS resources. In addition, more than 3,500 employees have been a part of the activities of the program.


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