SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) yesterday issued citations to the contractors who had employees working at the Tosco Refining Company Feb. 23, 1999, the day of the fatal fire at the company's Avon plant. Three contract employees died in the accident (in addition to one Tosco employee). The contractors found to have violated the state's workplace safety and health codes include Interstate Scaffolding, Inc., Waste Management Industrial Services, Inc. and Bigge Crane and Rigging Company.
"Although Tosco was determined to be directly responsible for the fire and ensuing tragedy and was fined $810,750 for the deaths of all four employees, the contractors involved were also found to be in violation of regulations which contributed to creating an unsafe work environment for their employees," said John Howard, chief of Cal/OSHA.
All three contractors failed to instruct their employees on how to recognize and avoid possible hazards associated with the work they were doing. The contractors also failed to perform initial benzene exposure monitoring at the worksite prior to beginning their work.
Interstate Scaffolding, Inc. had three employees on site hired to erect scaffolding for the removal and replacement of the naphtha piping. Two employees, a foreman and a carpenter, died of burns sustained during the fire.
Waste Management Industrial Services, Inc. provided a vacuum truck for the removal of the naphtha from the naphtha draw line the day of the accident. The truck operator remained on the ground at the base of the fractionator tower while the naphtha was drained from the piping into the vacuum truck. The driver was not injured in the accident.
Bigge Crane and Rigging was hired by Tosco to provide crane and rigging services for the removal and replacement of the naphtha piping. The foreman was on the scaffolding platform to rig the piping and then to direct the piping to the ground after it was cut. The foreman was unable to escape when the leaking naphtha ignited and died of his burn injuries in the hospital two days later.
The three contractors received monetary penalties associated with the citations:
The Cal/OSHA investigation team coordinated on-site investigations with federal OSHA, the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Contra Costa County Department of Health Services.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.
Copies of the citations and investigation summary can be found on the DIR Web site at www.dir.ca.gov.