ExxonMobil's Torrance refinery following the February 18 blast. Image courtesy of CBS Los Angeles/Youtube.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health ordered Exxon Mobil to pay $566,600 in fines on Thursday for violations tied to a February refinery blast in Torrance, California.

Cal/OSHA said it issued 19 citations to Exxon Mobil Refining & Supply Company for workplace safety and health violations following an investigation into the February 18 explosion at the company’s Torrance refinery that injured four workers.

The Torrance refinery blast was caused by a hydrocarbon release from the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracker (FCC) unit into its electrostatic precipitator (ESP), Cal/OSHA said.
The hydrocarbons ignited inside the ESP, causing the unit to explode.
Eight workers were decontaminated after the incident, and four were sent to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.
Eighteen of the citations were classified as serious due to “a realistic possibility of worker death or serious injury,” the agency said.
Six of these serious violations were also classified as “willful” because Cal/OSHA found that Exxon did not take action to eliminate known hazardous
conditions at the refinery and also “intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards.”
The agency said that Exxon’s incident response team, including ExxonMobil senior management, was aware of a leaking spent slide valve on the FCC unit before
the accident occurred and added that a 2007 safety review had uncovered concerns about flammable vapor leakage in the ESP.
“Management knew of potential fire or explosion hazards as a result of the leakage, and failed to correct the danger,” the agency said.
Exxon Mobil has 15 working days to appeal the citations to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.
Exxon Mobil told the LA Times that it is examining the citations.
“We are reviewing the citations to determine the appropriate administrative and legal next steps. We have, and will continue to work cooperatively with Cal/OSHA,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Todd Spitler told the paper.
Cal/OSHA has investigated ExxonMobil’s Torrance facility twice in the last five years for accident related incidents that resulted in serious workplace injuries in 2011.
“Petroleum refineries have the responsibility to keep workers safe, and to also protect nearby communities and the environment.This investigation revealed severe lapses in Exxon’s safety protocols,” Director of the Department of Industrial Relations Christine Baker said.


Leave a Reply