Expert expresses concern about refinery safety in wake of Irving blast

A professor whose primary area of research is occupational health and safety says oil refineries surrounded by communities need to work harder to ensure safety.

A massive refinery blast shook Saint John, N.B., on Monday, sending flames and black smoke into the sky but causing only minor injuries, leaving officials relieved it wasn't far worse.

Kevin Scott, Irving Oil's chief refining and supply officer, told reporters at an afternoon briefing that the company was ``very grateful today, and being Thanksgiving, I think it's appropriate.''

He said it's not clear exactly what caused the blast, but there had been some kind of malfunction in the refinery's diesel treating unit, which removes sulphur from diesel fuel.

Sean Tucker, an associate professor of human resource management at the University of Regina, says Canada has more than a dozen refineries but the Irving facility is by far the largest.

He says there's a lot of public concern in this country about how oil is transported, but not much attention is paid to the safety issues around refineries themselves.