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California industrial accident results in OSHA violations, fines

A refinery fire in California has resulted in a number of citations and a massive proposed fine by OSHA. If the fine stands, it will be the largest issued in the history of our state. Chevron has rebutted the claims and indicated it plans to appeal. The company acknowledges failure existed in the industrial accident, but it does not agree with many of the OSHA findings and disagrees with OSHA’s characterizations of those fines as willful.

Eleven of the fines issued against the company have been deemed as ‘willful serious,’ and an additional 12 have been characterized as serious. The company has been hit with the maximum amount of fines allowed by California law. The OSHA chief has stated investigators found there were major violations in the company’s response at all points, including the response during and after the blaze occurred.

The industrial accident happened when a corroded pipe began to leak, causing a fire. The company reportedly failed to shut the unit down, instead instructing workers to take out the insulation. This proved to be a dire mistake because it led to the pipe’s rupture and resulted in a significant blaze. There were injuries but none that were deemed serious. However, residents in the surrounding community were affected by the blaze and thousands had to seek medical treatment as a result of breathing the emissions.

OSHA determined there was a very real scenario the blaze could have led to serious injuries and even deaths of their workers. OSHA found that Chevron failed to protect its employees by neglecting to eliminate hazardous conditions in the workplace. The company also reportedly did not comply with required safety standards. Any time a California worker sustains injuries in an industrial accident, there is a very real possibility it could lead to hospitalization or even missed time on the job. Workers’ compensation benefits can offset the financial costs associated with these injuries, and workers can rest assured that help is available with the claims process to ensure that all available benefits are paid in a timely manner.

Source: Oil & Gas Journal, “Cal/OSHA poses record fine for fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery,” Nick Snow, Feb. 1, 2013