IR #2012-41
September 24, 2012

Dean Fryer
Erika Monterroza
(510) 286-1161

Twitter @CA_DIR

Cal/OSHA Chief outlines Chevron Richmond fire investigation and plans to further enhance interagency collaboration in compliance and enforcement

Richmond, CA – Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess reported on the status of the workplace safety agency’s investigation of the August 6th fire at Chevron’s Richmond refinery. She addressed a community meeting hosted by state and local legislators in Richmond today.   Cal/OSHA’s mission is to enforce health and safety laws that protect California’s workers.

“Our safety inspectors have been on the scene since the evening of the August 6th fire, collecting and testing evidence, interviewing more than 70 workers, and reviewing thousands of pages of documents turned over by Chevron,” Widess noted.

“From the outset, Cal/OSHA has been coordinating our investigation into the cause of the fire  with the U.S Chemical Safety Board, and benefitting from the long-standing collaboration with Contra Costa County Health Department’s Hazardous Materials Program in oversight of the Chevron refinery,” added Widess.  She noted that Cal/OSHA is also sharing its information with other state and local agencies responsible for community health and environmental protection.

Chief Widess also reported on Cal/OSHA’s three other investigations that have been opened in addition to the fire investigation:

“It is important to emphasize that while federal, state and local regulatory agencies conduct periodic oversight to evaluate refineries’ safety programs, it is employers who bear the  responsibility to protect their workers and surrounding communities,” declared Widess.

“We are committed to enforcing California’s worker health and safety laws, and will issue citations and require Chevron to correct all violations found. We anticipate that the initial investigation will be completed in February with any additional investigations completed later,” Widess added.

Cal/OSHA’s “Process Safety Management” regulations require employers like Chevron to implement a comprehensive safety plan covering the processing of hazardous materials on site.  Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment are in good condition, that work procedures are safe, that hazards are controlled, and that workers are trained to safely operate the equipment, to recognize hazards and to respond appropriately in emergency situations.

Today’s community meeting at the Richmond Civic Center was sponsored by Senator Loni Hancock, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia and the City of Richmond. Also making presentations at the meeting were representatives of the Contra Costa County Health Services and Hazardous Materials Department, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.

Chief Widess said various regulatory agencies and state and local legislators are sharing ideas to strengthen the interagency collaboration for compliance and enforcement between Cal/OSHA and other agencies. “We are exploring how to expand communication between agencies to increase data sharing, coordination of enforcement efforts and findings, and cross training of agency staff on safety and health hazards. The goal is to ensure that each agency’s staff is aware of the different regulations of the other agencies.”

Employers who want to learn more about Cal/OSHA, the process safety management and other workplace health and safety standards can get information at Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Program provides free and voluntary assistance to employers and employee organizations to improve their health and safety programs. For assistance from the Cal/OSHA Consultation Program, employers can call (800) 963-9424.

Workers with work-related questions or complaints can call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757. Complaints can also be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA District Offices listed on Cal/OSHA’s website.

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