Following an investigation into an explosion at a Riverside, California oil refinery last August, Cal/OSHA has fined the Chevron Corp. almost $1 million for a total of 25 citations, including 12 'serious' and 11 'willful serious' work safety violations. This is the highest fine ever meted out in Cal/OSHA's history. Fortunately, no employees were seriously injured in the work accident, though one employee sustained a minor injury.
The investigation revealed that Chevron failed to replace a corroded pipe per the safety recommendations Cal/OSHA inspectors made in 2002. That pipe burst, fueling the fire. Additionally, Cal/OSHA claims that Chevron failed to implement the proper emergency shutdown protocol once the leak was found the day of the work accident. When the fire occurred, it not only posed a great risk to employees, but to the community surrounding the refinery. About 200 local residents sought treatment for respiratory issues due to the fire.
The refinery where the fire occurred is the third largest in California, processing nearly a quarter million barrels of crude oil daily. Since the incident occurred, Chevron has taken measures to improve the safety and management issues that contributed to the fire. It is the company's plan to file an appeal against some of the citations. Chevron responded that they disagree with some of Cal/OSHA's findings and takes exception to some of the violations being characterized as 'willful.'
It remains to be seen how this issue will ultimately be resolved and if Chevron will have to pay the full amount of the fines. Regardless, a work accident like this could have had far worse consequences than it did. Any California worker who is injured or becomes ill as a result of an accident such as this is likely entitled to workers' compensation benefits to help pay medical costs and other financial losses. It may be beneficial for employees to seek legal assistance in order to ensure that they receive the full amount of benefits they are entitled to by law.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Chevron is hit with record Cal-OSHA fine for Aug. 6 refinery fire," Marc Lifsher, Jan. 31, 2013