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L&I Issues Record Fine In Deadly Tesoro Explosion

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Department of Labor and Industries press release:

After a six-month investigation, the Department of Labor & Industries has concluded that the deadly explosion at the Tesoro petroleum refinery in Anacortes could have been prevented. At a press conference today, L&I announced it has cited Tesoro for 39 “willful” violations and five “serious” violations of state workplace safety and health regulations, fining the company $2.38 million. While no amount of money can reflect the value of a person’s life, this is the largest fine in the agency’s history. A willful violation is a category of violation where an employer knowingly violates a rule and is plainly indifferent to correcting it, while a serious violation is one involving an instance where there is a substantial probability of serious injury or death.

L&I announced it has cited Tesoro for 39 “willful” violations and five “serious” violations of state workplace safety and health regulations, fining the company $2.38 million.

A heat exchanger at the refinery ruptured around 12:30 a.m., April 2, 2010, releasing hydrocarbon vapor which almost immediately ignited. Seven workers, five men and two women, died as a result. It is the worst industrial disaster in the 37 years that L&I has been enforcing the state’s workplace safety law, the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act.

“The loss of seven lives is a tragedy not just for their loved ones but for our entire state. What makes the loss of these lives all the more painful is that these deaths could have been prevented,” Governor Chris Gregoire said. “I believe the action L&I is announcing today and the record fine they have assessed against Tesoro sends a clear message that these tragedies are not acceptable.”

L&I inspectors found that Tesoro disregarded a host of workplace safety regulations, continued to operate failing equipment for years, postponed maintenance, inadequately tested for potentially catastrophic damage and failed to adequately protect their workers from significant risk of injury and death.

“This explosion and the deaths of these men and women would never have occurred had Tesoro tested their equipment in a manner consistent with standard industry practices, their own policies and state regulations,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke.
At today’s press conference, L&I inspectors explained that the explosion occurred in the plant’s Naphtha Hydrotreater Unit, an area that includes two banks of heat exchangers. Naphtha is a flammable, oily substance produced as part of the refining process. The naphtha flows through the heat exchangers, cylinders approximately 30 feet long, on its way for further processing. One of these heat exchangers split violently on April 2.

The blast came as workers were Continue reading

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L&I Inspectors To Investigate Fatal Explosion At Tesoro Refinery

TesoroThe Department of Labor and Industries  is investigating today’s fatal explosion at the Tesoro petroleum refinery in Anacortes.

“All of us at L&I are deeply saddened by the loss of life and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who have died and those who have been seriously injured,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke. “We’re going to take a hard look at the circumstances to determine whether there were violations of the law and what actions can be taken to prevent a future occurrence.”

The L&I team investigating the explosion consists of three inspectors and a compliance manager familiar with the plant from previous inspections. The team also has technical expertise in Process Safety Management (PSM). PSM focuses on a refinery’s development and implementation of systems designed to reduce or mitigate the potential for catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

Although L&I has opened an inspection, the team will not have access to the site until receiving clearance from incident command officials.

The investigation is expected to be complex, involving interviews, reviews of records, analysis of the scene, and laboratory work. The investigation could take up to six months.

In addition, the L&I inspection team will Continue reading