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July 29, 1999

L&I levies fines for other worker-safety violations at Equilon

TUMWATER - The Department of Labor & Industries has fined Equilon Enterprises and other sub contractors for incidents and worker-safety violations unrelated to the Thanksgiving-Eve fire that killed six workers at the Anacortes refinery last year.

The additional investigations were launched as the result of a series of incidents and referrals that occurred while L&I safety inspectors were conducting an investigation into the fatal fire. A total of seven inspections were opened with Equilon and other employers for incidents that included a steam explosion, an acid spill and a sewer fire. The agency also opened an investigation of the refinery's cranes after safety inspectors became concerned about crane operations. Three of the investigations remain open and are continuing.

The fatal investigation was concluded last May with an unprecedented $4.4 million settlement agreement with Houston-based Equilon Enterprises, the merged refining, marketing and pipeline operations of Texaco and Shell. The settlement included a record $1.1 million penalty, an independent audit of the refinery's process safety management program, a $1 million memorial contribution to the union's Fallen Worker Scholarship Fund, a $350,000 contribution to the City of Anacortes toward a new fire engine, and a $1 million contribution toward establishing a Workplace Safety and Health Institute.

The following is a brief summary of the recently completed investigations.

Equilon Enterprises (crane inspection)

Equilon was cited for six serious violations related to the operation of cranes at the refinery. Penalties totaling $12,000 were assessed. This inspection was opened in mid-January on a referral from L&I safety and health inspectors investigating the fatal fire who noticed possible safety violations in the use and operation of cranes.

Specifically, Equilon was cited for:

  • Failing to ensure that subcontractor (Western Plant Services Inc.) employees operating the crane met minimum training and experience requirements. The training and examination procedure was inadequate to ensure operator familiarity for the rules and mechanisms of the cranes they were to operate. ($2,000 penalty)
  • Failing to ensure that WPSI employees did not load cranes beyond their rated capacity when handling wet coke at the refinery. ($2,000)
  • Failing to ensure that WPSI employees safely operated the crane. WPSI workers regularly used runway stops as brakes when control delays did not stop the trolley in a timely fashion. ($2,000)
  • Failing to ensure that WPSI workers had a safe and healthful workplace, free of recognized hazards as required. Specifically, the employer allowed the cranes to be used with damaged and kinked wire rope whose integrity was severely compromised and could have failed under load. ($2,000)
  • Failing to ensure that cranes were thoroughly inspected at least semi-annually as required. Additionally, the employer failed to provide required inspections on wire ropes on cranes that were idle for more than a month. The employer also failed to keep a full written, dated and signed report of the inspection on file and available. ($2,000)
  • Failed to ensure that WPSI operators were properly operating the crane in conditions when slack rope conditions were encountered. ($2,000)

The employer also was cited for one general violation for failing to establish a preventative maintenance program based on the crane manufacturer's recommendations. No penalty was assessed.

Western Plant Services Inc. (crane inspection)

Western Plant Services Inc. was cited for six serious violations related to the operation of cranes at the refinery. Penalties totaling $4,800 were assessed. This inspection was opened in January on a referral from L&I safety and health inspectors investigating the fatal fire who noticed possible safety violations in the use and operation of cranes.

Specifically, WPSI was cited for:

  • Failing to ensure that employees operating the crane met minimum training and experience requirements. The training and examination procedure was inadequate to ensure operator familiarity for the rules and mechanisms of the cranes they were to operate. ($800)
  • Failing to ensure that employees did not load cranes beyond their rated capacity when handling wet coke at the refinery. ($800)
  • Failing to ensure that employees safely operated the crane. Workers regularly used runway stops as brakes when control delays did not stop the trolley in a timely fashion. ($800)
  • Failing to ensure that workers had a safe and healthful workplace, free of recognized hazards as required. Specifically, the employer allowed the cranes to be used with damaged and kinked wire rope whose integrity was severely compromised and could have failed under load. ($800)
  • Failing to ensure that cranes were thoroughly inspected at least semi-annually as required. Additionally, the employer failed to provide required inspections on wire ropes on cranes that were idle for more than a month. The employer also failed to keep a full written, dated and signed report of the inspection on file and available. ($800)
  • Failed to ensure that operators were properly operating the crane in conditions when slack rope conditions were encountered. ($800)

The employer also was cited for two general violations. The first was for failing to establish a preventative maintenance program based on the crane manufacturer's recommendations. Secondly, the employer failed to have designated safety committee with employer-selected and employee-elected members as required. No penalties were assessed for these violations.

Equilon Enterprises (steam explosion incident)

L&I opened an investigation on March 4, 1999, after a degasser vessel exploded during maintenance and refurbishing work on the alkylation-polymerization unit, injuring eight workers. The explosion occurred after steam was used in the cleaning and maintenance process. L&I's investigation revealed two repeat serious violations. Penalties totaling $17,740 were assessed.

Specifically, Equilon was cited for:

  • Failing to ensure that adequate procedures were followed while utility steam was being used in the cleaning process at the alki-poly unit. Additionally, the employer failed to provide adequate supervision. ($14,000)
  • Failing to ensure that employees who were using 250 psi (pounds-per-square-inch) of utility steam to clean an out-of-service vessel in the alki-poly unit were trained in safe work practices as required. ($3,740)

Equilon Enterprises (sewer fire incident)

This investigation was opened in response to a March 7, 1999, flash fire in a sewer system at the refinery. The incident resulted from sparks from a welder's torch apparently ignited a flammable mixture that developed in a nearby sewer line. No one was seriously injured in the incident. L&I cited one serious violation and assessed a penalty of $1,870.

Specifically, Equilon was cited for failing to ensure that an open pipe was not covered or shielded from welding sparks. Additionally, the employer failed to remove combustibles or protect combustibles from ignition sources in situations where work cannot be moved practically.

The employer has 15 working days from receipt of the violation report to appeal.

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