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Feb
2014
27

Steelworkers Union, Father of Fallen Worker Question Tesoro’s Refinery Safety Practices

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Unions are questioning Tesoro’s commitment to safety following the company’s underwhelming response to a February incident at California’s Golden Eagle Refinery that left two workers injured.  The United Steelworkers are demanding that Tesoro develop a “comprehensive, cohesive” safety program. At the heart of the matter is the Texas company’s decision to refuse Chemical Safety Board officials access during inspections of the refinery.  

According to a written statement from USW International Vice President Gary Beevers,

“Tesoro management trivialized the extent of the workers’ injuries to establish jurisdictional defense specifically to avoid the scrutiny of U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and other agencies.  Management’s platitudes about operating safely have been exposed, as constant downward pressure to produce continues to threaten workers, their communities and the environment.”

The incident occurred a month after a draft report on a 2010 explosion at the facility deemed Tesoro’s safety culture “deficient.”  According to the San Antonio Business Journal, Tesoro spokesperson Megan Arredondo denied that the company refused access to CSB officials, but admited requesting an explanation for why a full investigation of the refinery was needed.  CSB officials did not respond to the request.  

A recent letter to the Seattle Times from the father of one of the fallen workers questions the company and its safety procedures:

First: Why was the area containing the heat exchangers allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that multiple employees had to be present with steam lances to handle the leaks. Is Tesoro not familiar with techniques of installing new gaskets where necessary?

Second: As stated in the Anacortes American, what exactly in the Tesoro appeal process were the “unanticipated employee misconduct issues” that my boy and the six other victims were going to be accused of?

Third: As stated in the Skagit Valley Herald, California has a far superior safety record. That state has 21 refineries, with 3 fatalities in the past 11 years.

My last question: Why the difference?

The United Steelworkers praised the California division of OSHA for their decision to stop the company from immediately reopening the refinery’s alkylation unit where the incident occurred.

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