The largest such fine in state history was leveled today against the Tesoro refinery near Anacortes where an April explosion left seven dead. The Department of Labor & Industries cited the refinery with 39 "willful" violations and five "serious" violations of state workplace safety and health regulations, fining the company a record $2.38 million.
"What makes the loss of these lives all the more painful is that these deaths could have been prevented," said Gov. Chris Gregoire. "I believe the action L&I is announcing today and the record fine they have assessed against Tesoro sends a clear message that these tragedies are not acceptable."
At a Mount Vernon press conference today announcing the findings after a six month probe, L&I inspectors said the explosion occurred in the refinery's Naphtha Hydrotreater Unit, an area that includes two banks of heat exchangers. Naphtha is a highly flammable chemical used to make finished petroleum products.
The blast occurred as workers were putting a bank of 40-year-old heat exchangers into service after it had been shut down for maintenance, said the state. Tests later revealed cracks had developed in many of the welds in the heat exchanger that exploded and in at least one other similar heat exchanger.
"If Tesoro had tested their equipment appropriately and had followed their other safety requirements," said Dr. Michael Silverstein, an L&I assistant director, "we believe that they would have found the cracks that caused this explosion and, either by replacing the equipment or repairing it, prevented this from happening."
The list of violations include, L&I said in a press release, failing to inspect equipment consistent with recognized engineering practices and industry standards, failing to test for cracks and other defects in equipment prone to damage from thermal fatigue, chemical exposure, and failing to implement its own corrosion awareness and management program. The refinery is currently preparing to return to full-time operation.