Fire accidents in offshore oil installations can be devastating no doubt, but the chances and risk remain less as compared to petrol pumps and other areas where unauthorized personnel have easy access. The midstream oil business comprising pipelines and transportation vehicles through land and sea are also hugely risk prone.
Let us talk about the downstream oil business here that is a huge concern. One may recall many incidents like the one where at least 45 people were injured in a massive fire that broke out at Bharat Petroleum's refinery in Mumbai on Wednesday (August 8, 2018) afternoon.
While companies believe they are ready for fires or other incidents, a thorough inspection and safety audit may reveal unknown vulnerabilities at refineries and petrol pumps. I single out petrol pumps particularly because a petrol pump attendant can hardly be as trained and alert for fire accidents as say, an upstream oil rig engineer or official. Also, the upstream oil sites have restrictions on laymen and visitors while a petrol pump is an open area with all kinds of people moving around in the danger zone.
Believe it or not most accidents happen due to human error. A casual smoker or one using a cellphone near a gas dispensation unit could cause a devastating accident due to sheer ignorance. The chances of human error are far more where uninitiated and unaware individuals are moving around in droves. Where there is risk of fires and explosions and there may be hazardous gases in the air that could endanger worker health and safety, it would be wise to monitor the presence of these gases and vapors using combustible and toxic gas detection systems to avoid activities that may increase the chance of fire.
Also usage of appropriate signages in the local language at petrol pumps alerting visitors or loiterers about possible risks would also help. Oil companies would be well advised to keep strict check on the retail outlet personnel and the activities at their pumps so that the staff knows they are under watch and so refrain from being casual. After all a stitch in time here, may not just save nine but save lives.