A spokesperson for an environmental advocacy organization recently voiced his view that the results of an OSHA inspection into an oil refinery explosion last August would be “revelatory” and expose Chevron’s safety culture as nothing more than “running the refinery to the point of failure.”
He was right. In an investigation just concluded into the huge pipe rupture and fire at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, California, government inspectors charged Chevron with willful disregard of safety that created a tremendous risk of burn injuries and other on-the-job injuries for employees. In addition, thousands of people in the local community say they were hurt by the blaze and sought medical treatment in its aftermath.
OSHA area offices operate in every state, including Ohio. Pursuant to its investigation of the Richmond explosion, California’s OSHA office slapped Chevron with a $1 million fine, the largest levied in its history. The state’s OSHA chief said she hoped the size of the penalty and the number of willful citations issued the oil and gas company would serve as “a wake-up wall” for it to follow through on safety warnings and create a safe working environment.
The explosion was massive, caused by ruptured pipes that investigators say the company knew for years needed repairing. One commentator stated that “the conduct that occurred here was outrageous, and it was conduct that was entirely preventable.”
More than 15,000 people sought medical treatment following the fire and resulting spread of toxin-filled smoke that enveloped their community.
Source: ABC News, “CalOSHA slaps Chevron with largest fine in agency’s history,” Heather Ishimaru, Jan. 30, 2013
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