Not all refining hazards are caused by the same factors or involve the same degree of potential damage. Personal or occupational safety hazards give rise to incidents—such as slips, falls, and vehicle accidents—that primarily affect one individual worker or each occurrence.
Process safety hazards can give rise to major accidents involving the release of potentially dangerous materials, the release of energy (such as fires and explosions), or both. Process safety incidents can have catastrophic effects and can result in multiple injuries and fatalities, as well as substantial economic, property, and environmental damage. Process safety refinery incidents can affect workers inside the refinery and members of the public who reside nearby. Process safety in a refinery involves the prevention of leaks, spills, equipment malfunctions, over-pressures, excessive temperatures, corrosion, metal fatigue, and other similar conditions. Process safety programs focus on the design and engineering of facilities, hazard assessments, management of change, inspection, testing, and maintenance of equipment, effective alarms, effective process control, procedures, training of personnel, and human factors. The Texas City tragedy in March 2005 was a process safety accident.