California Occupational Safety fines Valero Refinery $1.75M
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California Occupational Safety fines Valero Refinery $1.75M

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) Thursday released a statement to announce that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited Valero Refinery and three contractors a total of $1.75 million for serious safety violations which resulted in the death of a worker in November 2021.

Cal/OSHA inspectors cited three of four employers for willful and serious violations after they determined confined space guidelines were not followed. The noncompliance resulted in the death of a worker who descended into a regeneration overflow well to evaluate the condition of the well’s interior and perform cleaning operations. However the worker lost consciousness and inspectors determined a welding torch left inside the well leaked argon, which is “an odorless gas that displaced oxygen inside the confined space.”

The California DIR statement included a breakdown of the $1.75M fine. The violations Cal/OSHA cited included failure to “evaluate the workplace to determine if any spaces are permit-required confined spaces, ensure employees use equipment and safety precautions during the rescue of an employee, and monitor unauthorized entrants into workspaces.”

Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip made the following statement:

Working in confined spaces is extremely dangerous, as is working with argon, said Cal/OSHA Chief Jeff Killip. The employers involved had a responsibility to keep their workers safe. The first step to preventing a completely avoidable fatality is to identify hazards before a worker enters a confined space.

The California DIR provides a confined space guide for general industry “to help employers provide safe workplaces and ensure workers know these hazards.”