California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has hit Chevron USA with a whopping 11 serious and willful violations and almost $1 million in proposed penalties as the result of its investigation into the August 2012 explosion and fire at the company's Richmond refinery. No workers were killed or seriously injured in the incident.
The massive fire, which DOSH Chief Ellen Widess called a "wake-up call" for the entire refining industry, happened, according to Cal/OSHA, because Chevron failed to replace a leaking pipe carrying volatile hydrocarbons -- despite being warned about it as far back as 2002. The fire caused extensive damage to the refinery, perched on the shores of San Pablo Bay, and sent a plume of black, acrid smoke over the East Bay, prompting an estimated 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment.
Just minutes before the explosion, workers had removed insulation from the leaky pipe. That act led to a buildup of gases and then the explosion.
The willful nature of the violations are based on Chevron's failure to follow internal recommendations to replace the pipe; not recognizing the potential for catastrophe from the disintegrating pipe; ordering contract workers to erect a scaffold at the leak site; allowing workers to enter the zone without personal protective equipment and having "pervasive violations" throughout the refinery in its leak repair procedures.
A second employer, Brand Scaffolding, was cited for several alleged general violations in the case.