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ExxonMobil fined $566,600 by OSHA after blast at Torrance refinery

13 August 2015

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has issued 19 citations to ExxonMobil Refinery Supply Co. over an explosion at the company’s refinery in Torrance, California, that injured four workers. Cal/OSHA said 18 of the 19 citations stemming from the February 18 blast are classified as serious because they could have caused death or serious injury and is proposing penalties totalling $566,600.

Stock image
Stock image

The agency found the company neglected to eliminate known hazardous conditions and “intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards,” resulting in workers facing the risk of death or injury.

Four workers received minor injuries in the blast, which investigators concluded was the result of a hydrocarbon release from the fluid catalytic cracker unit into the electrostatic precipitator - a filtration device that removes fine particulates, which caused the electrostatic precipitator to explode.

The agency determined the company’s management knew the electrostatic precipitator could explode during a flammable vapour leakage. A safety review in 2007 addressed concerns about the leakage, but the company failed to fix it.

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

 “We are reviewing the citations to determine the appropriate administrative and legal next steps,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Todd Spitler said. “We have, and will continue to work cooperatively with Cal/OSHA.”

The company has 15 days to appeal the citations to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.


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