Chevron faces $963,200 in fines from Cal/OSHA for 25 citations in connection with the Aug. 6, 2012, fire at the company’s refinery in Richmond, CA. This is the highest penalty in Cal/OSHA’s history.
The willful violations include failure to:
- replace corroded pipe that eventually ruptured
- test pipe thickness in areas identified as susceptible to corrosion and leaks
- implement Chevron’s own emergency procedures to shut down the crude unit where the leak occurred which exposed workers to harm by directing them to remove insulation
- recognize the potential for a catastrophic release of ignitable diesel fuel from the leaking pipe (Chevron ordered contract employees to erect a scaffold at the leak site)
- prevent workers from entering the hazardous incident zone without proper personal protective equipment, and
- replace clamps that had been used as temporary fixes in pipes.
The serious violations include failure to:
- prevent harmful exposures to employees — there were no effective controls for workers in the vicinity of a petroleum hydrocarbon leak
- perform process safety analysis
- provide proper breathing apparatus to emergency responder, and
- provide covers on electrical conduit bodies installed in hazardous locations.
Chevron says it plans to appeal some of the citations. The company says it also doesn’t agree with the categorization of some of the violations as willful.
The fire resulted in one minor worker injury, but about 200 local residents sought medical help for respiratory problems.
In preliminary findings into the causes of the Chevron refinery fire, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said there was no evidence the company conducted an inspection last year on the section of pipe that ruptured, leading to the fire. The pipe had only 20% of its original thickness. Chevron’s own standards call for replacement of the pipe when it reaches 50% of original thickness.
The CBS probe continues to determine what caused company officials to violate their own standards.