IR # 97-37
Thursday, July 10, 1997

Rick Rice
Troy Swauger
(415) 972-8835

Cal/OSHA Issues 20 Citations in Tosco Accident

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) today cited Tosco Refining and Marketing Company for 22 alleged violations of state workplace safety regulations as a result of its investigation of the January 21, 1997 fatal explosion at the company's Martinez plant. One employee died as a result of the accident and 46 Tosco and contractor workers reported injuries.

"Our six-month inspection has shown us that Tosco has failed to use recognized and generally accepted good engineering procedures in the operation of the company's Hydrocracker Unit," Deputy Cal/OSHA Chief Mark Carleson said. "The Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations that Tosco has allegedly violated are intended to prevent a catastrophic incident, such as what happened in January, thereby minimizing the risks that employees are exposed to in the petroleum refinery industry."

The total amount of the penalties was $277,750. A review of Cal/OSHA inspections through 1990 show that the fine represents the highest penalty levied against a petroleum refinery company in California.

Sixteen of the alleged violations were classified as serious under California's Code of Regulations and carried penalties totaling $66,375. Three general violations were cited, carrying a total penalty of $1,375. Three additional violations were classified as willful serious and carried the maximum penalties allowed of $70,000 each.

Specifically, Cal/OSHA found violations for:

The Cal/OSHA investigation found that the explosion and fire was caused when the temperature inside the Hydrocracker Unit passed 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, exceeding the reactor's maximum safety level of 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperature inside the reactor rose due to the process instability and was initially undetected by internal thermostats. While the investigation does not rule out the possibility of some aspect of operator error, it is clear that there remains a serious failure on the part of Tosco's management to implement the company's own internal safety policies.

California law provides that a company may appeal Cal/OSHA citations and penalties within 15 working days to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in Sacramento.

The Cal/OSHA investigation team coordinated on-site investigations with the Federal OSHA, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Contra Costa County Department of Health Services, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The division has a concurrent criminal investigation underway through its Bureau of Investigation. The findings from that investigation, which focuses on possible criminal liability involved in the accident, will be handed over in a confidential report to the local district attorney's office for a determination as to whether criminal charges are appropriate.