East Bay News

CalOSHA slaps Chevron with largest fine in agency's history

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cal/OSHA has now finished its investigation into the massive fire at the Chevron refinery on Aug. 6, 2012 and that report is slamming the company with the largest penalty in the agency's history.

Cal/OSHA says Chevron had repeated warnings over the period of a decade that it needed to replace the pipe, but ignored those warnings. Then when it did rupture, it allowed workers to be inside the danger zone without the proper protective gear.

Cal/OSHA says Chevron had every opportunity to prevent the August pipe rupture and fire, but ignored repeated warnings from its own inspectors putting workers and the community at risk of injury and death.

"We certainly hope that the citations, the seriousness of them, the classification of them, is a wake-up call," said Ellen Widess, the Cal/OSHA chief.

There are a total of 25 citations including 11 in the most serious category or "willful serious". Those include not following its own policies to replace the corroded pipe, not implementing its own emergency procedures, and pervasive violations in leak repair procedures.

The fines total about $1 million. The worst in Cal/OSHA history, but only pocket change to the oil giant. Still, attorney John Burris represents more than 10,000 people who say they were hurt by the fire is pleased with the severity of the Cal/OSHA citations.

"That's terrific because the conduct that occurred here was outrageous, and it was conduct that was entirely preventable," said Burris.

Burris set up an office in Richmond the day of the fire. Sherry Edwards is one of his clients. She lives in Point Richmond in the shadow of the refinery. Her pre-existing asthma is worse since the fire. She's been in the hospital seven times since, each time for a four-day stay.

When asked what she thought Chevron should do for her, Edwards said, "I think Chevron should do, just not for me, but for the public in general. I think that they should accommodate them in some kind of way because it wasn't 24 hours before they made their money back!"

Chevron issued a statement on Wednesday saying, "Although we acknowledge that we failed to live up to our own expectations in this incident, we do not agree with several of the Cal/OSHA findings and its characterization of some of the alleged violations as "willful." Chevron intends to appeal."

Here is Chevron's full response to us:

We are in the process of reviewing the citations issued by Cal/OSHA and are continuing to cooperate with local, state, and federal agencies investigating the August 6, 2012 incident at the Richmond refinery.

Chevron takes our commitment to safe operations seriously. Although we acknowledge that we failed to live up to our own expectations in this incident, we do not agree with several of the Cal/OSHA findings and its characterization of some of the alleged violations as "willful." Chevron intends to appeal.

Separately, on January 28, 2013, we submitted an update to our 30-Day Report to Contra Costa Health Services on the status of our ongoing internal investigation and the corrective actions we have begun to develop and implement. These corrective actions will strengthen process safety, mechanical integrity, and management oversight. Specifically, the company is:

  • Enhancing inspections of piping components potentially susceptible to sulfidation corrosion since carbon steel components with low-silicon content can corrode at an accelerated rate. This inspection program is being applied throughout our refinery system worldwide.
  • Strengthening reliability programs for piping and equipment, and enhancing competency requirements for leaders, inspectors and engineers.
  • Strengthening leak response protocols and reinforcing the authority that everyone has to shut down equipment.
  • Creating more management oversight and accountability for process safety and re-emphasizing focus on process safety.

Chevron is committed to implementing these changes promptly and on a sustained basis at Richmond and across our manufacturing network as appropriate. You can find more details on these changes here at: richmond.chevron.com

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cal OSHA, chevron, fire, east bay news, heather ishimaru
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