Long Beach-based industrial health and safety expert Jeff Davis has more than 15 years of experience
in the petrochemical and energy industries. Currently, Jeff Davis serves as a safety manager and safety
instructor for Beacon Energy Services.
The hazards associated with petrochemicals, including crude oil, have been well documented. A
compound mixture, crude oil contains thousands of hydrocarbons, as well as nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen,
water, salts, and trace metals. Because crude oil is so complex, refineries are able to transform it into a
wide range of products, such as asphalt, petroleum solvents, fuels, lubricants, greases, and petroleum
waxes. However, its potentially dangerous mix of toxic and inflammable ingredients means that the
risk of fire or explosion always exists in a crude oil refinery, partly due to the use of furnaces, reactors,
pipes, heat exchangers, and other sources of heat.
Another ever-present hazard at crude oil refineries is the risk of toxic chemical exposure, which may
result in corrosiveness, burns, or asphyxiation. To reduce these risks as much as possible, refineries
adopt stringent health and safety procedures. Work permits are required, safety monitoring is complex
and constant, emergency warning systems are installed, and employees are required to wear appropriate
clothing and safety equipment, according to the specific hazards present in the work environment.