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Government Plans Fines Against Chevron For Refinery Safety Violations

September 27, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Labor Department announced plans to fine Chevron U.S.A. Inc. $877,000 for 114 safety violations in connection with a Richmond, Calif., refinery fire last spring in which three workers were severely burned.

″The great tragedy of these injuries is that they were avoidable,″ Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole said Tuesday in announcing the findings of the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which inspected the refinery after the accident.

The safety agency concluded that Chevron was aware that workers responsible for assisting firefighters should have had protective equipment and clothing. It said individual refinery workers and union officials have been requesting protective equipment for several years but the company saw no need for it.

″The company failed to provide even this most fundamental basic equipment,″ Mrs. Dole said.

Jeff Krag, a Chevron spokesman at the refinery, said the company had not finished reviewing the proposed Labor Department fines but ″on initial glance″ saw flaws in OSHA’s analysis of the accident. He said the company would appeal the penalties.

The company has 15 days to contest the fines in administrative proceedings before the department makes them final.

The safety agency determined that the April 10 fire began when a pipe carrying highly pressurized hydrogen gas separated at a weld. The resulting fire and explosion weakened an adjacent reactor, which fell and engulfed four workers in flames.

Three who were wearing no fire-resistant clothing received second- and third-degree burns over as much as 70 percent of their bodies from hot oil.

The fourth worker, a firefighter, escaped with minor first- and second- degree burns on his face because he wore fire-resistant clothing that covered the rest of his body, the dpartment said.

Five other workers suffered less serious injuries.

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