PITTSBURGH, Jan. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today lauded the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (CalOSHA) for nearly $1 million in fines and citations the department issued against Chevron in response to a fire last summer at the company's refinery in Richmond, Calif.
The Aug. 6 incident produced a huge cloud of smoke across the San Francisco Bay area, sending more than 1,000 residents to hospitals with shortness of breath and dizziness, causing more than 100,000 others to be temporarily confined to their homes, and pushing gas prices in the region past $4.50 a gallon.
"While nobody was killed or seriously injured, we know that if the circumstances had been just slightly different, that certainly would not be the case," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "We hope these citations ensure that this never happens again, because next time we might not be so lucky."
The incident began with a leak that Chevron officials believed they could handle without taking the unit offline. In response to the incident, the company said it would institute new policies on evaluating leaks and determining whether to shut down. The new policies will give all employees the authority to shut down a unit if it poses a danger.
"The best way to make sure that meaningful changes are made is through employee involvement," said Gary Beevers, the USW International Vice President who oversees the union's oil sector. "These changes will only matter if Chevron is committed to making workers true partners in this process."
OSHA's Process Safety Management standard establishes minimum safety requirements for all refineries. While Chevron had a written plan in place for dealing with situation like the Richmond fire, it failed to follow through with the plan as written. CalOSHA's citations reflect that failure.
"In the future, we hope that Chevron and other oil companies will go beyond the minimum requirements and take every possible step to protect their workers and their communities," Gerard said.
The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean in a variety of industries, from glassmaking to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care.
Jim Frederick, 412-562-2586, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)