California's Occupational Safety and Health division recently cited Chevron with nearly $1 million in fines as a result of a recent fire at its refinery in Richmond, California. According to Hydrocarbon Processing, the fire at that work site lasted for hours. During the fire, plumes of black smoke were sent over the San Francisco Bay and sent many residents to emergency rooms.
Officials are still investigating the incident. Thus far, they have concluded that a corroded pipe of the refinery's main crude oil distillation unit caused the fire. Overall, there were close to 30 violations recorded. Within these violations were more than 10 "willful serious" violations and 12 "serious" violations against the company. The company was fined the highest allowable amount under state law.
Our Los Angeles workers' compensation lawyers understand that U.S. workers are required, by state and federal law, to be provided with safe and hazard-free work areas. There are a number of safety standards that each company and work site must follow. Not only do companies run the risk of punishment for not following these rules, but they're also putting their employees at risk for some serious and unnecessary accidents and injuries.
Chevron doesn't agree with the findings. A spokesperson for the company says that the company understands that they didn't live up to their own expectations with this particular incident, but they don't agree with many of the state's OSHA findings.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a willful violation is defined as a violation in which the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety.
The penalties for these violations can rage anywhere between $5,000 and $70,000.
According to OSHA, there are about 6,000 office fires in the U.S. each and every year. Your best bet to keep workers safe in the event of a fire is to become familiar with the building and with its fire and life safety systems. Workers and supervisors should be aware of where fire extinguishers, manual pull alarms, smoke detectors, sprinklers, exits, stairwells and fire doors are located.
When a fire happens:
-Make sure you treat every alarm as if it were an emergency, even if you know it's a drill. You're best preparation is knowing exactly what to do in a real emergency.
-Make sure everyone knows the emergency numbers to contact in the event of a real fire. This includes 9-1-1 and local fire departments.
-Whenever exiting for a fire, make sure you close the doors behind you. This helps to limit the spread of smoke.
-Make sure you have an employee meeting somewhere outside in a safe spot.
-Practice these drills regularly!
The employer shall be responsible for the development and maintenance of an effective fire protection and prevention program at the job site throughout all phases of the construction, repair, alteration, or demolition work. The employer shall ensure the availability of the fire protection and suppression equipment.
Injured in Los Angeles? Call 1-800-872-5925 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
California Work Accidents, Cell Phones and Distracted Driving, California Injury Lawyer Blog, January 17, 2013
Fatal California Work Accident: Worker Trapped in Tuna Oven, California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 16, 2012