Poor Safety Records and Standards
The Paraguana Refinery Complex was state-owned by the Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). PDVSA has long been criticized for their negligence in industrial safety. Since 2003, PDVSA has been plagued by 79 accidents which include 6 explosions and 7 fires within the refinery complex. Despite these incidents, no major safety measures were undertaken by the company. This makes the safety standards of PDVSA questionable. As a result, the negligence of safety protocols by the PDVSA is the root cause of the Amuay refinery explosion. Lack of Maintenance
In PDVSA’s 2011 report, it was found that seven out of the nine major maintenance projects scheduled for Amuay had been postponed due to missing replacement parts. The duration of unscheduled downtime thus increased. The lack of maintenance could have also resulted in failure of safety devices (i.e. safety interlock system, safety valves). The gas leak may thus be due to equipment failure that was not identified due to a lack of proper maintenance. Negligence
According to PDVSA Vice-President, a leak of propane and butane gas was detected an hour before the blast. However, workers and residents living nearby have reported on the smell of gas days before the incident. Despite this, no actions were taken to contain the situation. Political
In 2003, Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela fired 18,000 PDVSA employees and replaced them with party loyalists. As such, the company lost many employees with expertise in industrial safety. It is also reported that PDVSA failed to invest in regular maintenance and safety precautions, while directing funds into government social and housing projects. Due to the diversion of funds and the loss of safety experts in the complex, PDVSA is thus unable to uphold high safety standards which might be a cause to the tragic incident.