summer 2012 fire at a refinery in Richmond, CA, which sent thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents to hospital in respiratory distress has brought an agreement whereby Chevron Corporation will pay $2 million in fines and restitution.
The fire was caused by a corroded pipe that leaked flammable fluid used in the hydrocarbon refining process. The fluid vaporized and a vapor cloud ignited, spewing black smoke over residential areas. Nineteen workers engulfed by the vapor cloud before it exploded escaped serious injury.
Investigators determined that the pipe dated to the 1970s and was never replaced in spite of warnings from Chevron’s own inspectors. An investigation found that the pipe had been weakened by sulfur in crude oil being pumped through it.
Chevron pleaded no contest to six violations of the Labor Code and Health and Safety Code, including:
Under the agreement reached with the California Attorney General’s Office and the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, Chevron has agreed to inspect every piece of pipe identified as subject to sulfidation corrosion to ensure that every pipe is of sufficient thickness to operate safely. It will also make substantial changes to its business practices in order to protect the health and safety of its workers, emergency responders and local residents.
The agreement includes $1.28 million in fines, $575,000 reimbursement to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the State Attorney General’s office, and $145,000 toward a program that trains people for jobs in the renewable energy and construction fields.
The company told county health officials in January 2013 that it had paid $10 million in compensation for 24,000 residents, the hospitals that treated them after the fire, and local government agencies.
This article speaks to a warning letter issued by OSHA to American refineries regarding the need to comply with OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard to protect workers’ lives.
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