OSHA fines California company for workplace safety violations

The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health has proposed $963,200 in penalties against Chevron USA, arising from a fire at the company's refinery located in Richmond, California. Cal/OSHA's filings also include 25 citations against the company.

According to agency representatives, the fire occurred after a corroded pipe in the refinery began leaking. The company is accused of removing the pipe's insulation instead of shutting down the unit. That action may have led to the pipe's rupture and the fire.

Fortunately, no workers were injured in the fire. However, 15,000 residents of communities surrounding the refinery sought treatment after breathing emissions from the fire.

After an initial violation is issued to an employer, OSHA regulations require the employer to implement changes to bring the workplace up to standards. OSHA penalties are assessed on a number of factors including the severity of the violation, whether it is a repeat violation from a previous inspection, and any good faith efforts made by the employer to correct the violation, among others.

For hazards posing a risk of serious physical injury or death and of which an employer should have been aware, OSHA will cite the employer with a serious violation. Repeat violations for the same or similar issues also result in higher penalties than first-time violations. In this case, Cal/OSHA reports that its proposed penalties against Chevron USA are the highest in the agency's history.

Unfortunately, some employers continue to violate safety regulations, despite OSHA citations. If you have sustained workplace injuries due to unsafe conditions, seek out the advice of an attorney. An attorney can determine if your employer failed to take necessary precautions and should be held liable to you for your injury.

Source: ohsonline.com, "Cal/OSHA Issues $963,200 in Penalties for Refinery Fire," Feb. 1, 2013

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