Last week we discussed OSHA's initiative to help enforce and promote safety in the oil exploration and refining industries. Perhaps that initiative was prompted in some way by the terrible Chevron refinery fire that happened in California last summer.
Many Texans may have heard about the explosion at Chevron's Bay Area site last August. The blast injured at least one worker, but affected area residents as well. While they were warned to stay inside and away from potentially toxic substances in the outside air, 200 people sought medical attention for respiratory issues following the fire. The state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health followed up with an investigation, and the findings were startling.
Cal-OSHA found Chevron, to be in violation of 25 safety rules. While 12 were considered serious, but lesser violations, 11 were deemed willful and serious violations. Among the more serious of the violations found was that Chevron apparently failed to replace a corroding pipe despite being told to do so 10 years before the fire. That pipe eventually broke and caused the explosion. The company was fined more than any other company has in the state's history: $963,200.
While Chevron issued a statement saying that it takes the safety of its employees seriously, it is clear that opportunities to improve safety and protect workers and nearby residents were overlooked in the last several years. Additionally, the company plans to appeal some of the citations.
Fortunately, reports say that Chevron has taken steps to begin correcting some of its safety violations. However, this situation shows how dangerous it can be when employers fail to make improvements to a workplace in a timely manner. Hopefully employers in Texas and throughout the country will take note of this situation and do what they can to ensure their workers are kept safe on the job.