Safety violations found, refinery to pay large fine

Safety violations found, refinery to pay large fine

Dangerous safety violations were found in investigation of explosion at Torrance refinery.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) has fined Exxon Mobil $566,000 for safety violations after an investigation into an explosion at a Torrance refinery last February.

The regulatory agency said 18 of the 19 violation cited were of a serious nature, and six were classified as willful violations, because the company failed to take action to correct the dangerous conditions, according to a CBS/AP report.

The explosion, which occurred on February 18, resulted in injuries to four contractors, but heavily damaged some equipment and covered nearby homes and cars with a fine ash.

Cal-OSHA attributed the blast to vapor leakage from a fluid catalytic cracker(FCC), a key gasoline making component, coming into contact with an electrostatic precipitator.  It was determined the FCC had not been correctly working for almost nine years prior to the explosion.

A motor explosion on the FCC resulted in a fractured jaw and the loss of six teeth by an employee who was trying to shut down the pump he was working on in March of 2011.

Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations, said in a statement, “Petroleum refineries have the responsibility to keep workers safe, and also to protect nearby communities and the environment.  This investigation revealed severe lapses in Exxon’s safety protocols.”

An Exxon spokesman said the company, which has 15 days to appeal the citations, was reviewing the citations and would take the appropriate legal and administrative steps to address the problems.  They also said they have and will continue to work in cooperation with Cal-OSHA in the future.

The refinery’s fluid catalytic cracker has been shut down since the explosion and has contributed to higher gasoline prices at the pump in California.


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