SACRAMENTO — California safety officials ordered Chevron Corp. to pay a record-high fine of nearly $1 million for safety violations that led to a massive fire last summer at a refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area.
After the Aug. 6 explosion at Chevron's facility in Richmond, Calif., an emergency telephone network advised tens of thousands of people in that city to stay indoors behind closed doors and windows to avoid breathing potentially dangerous sulfuric acid and nitrogen dioxide fumes. About 200 local residents sought medical help, complaining of respiratory problems. In addition, Chevron reported that one of its employees suffered a minor injury.
Cal-OSHA said Wednesday that its investigation of the explosion at a leaking crude refining unit, among other things, showed that Chevron did not follow safety recommendations made by its inspectors in 2002 to replace a corroded pipe that subsequently ruptured and fueled the fire. The company also failed to follow emergency shutdown procedures after the leak was found the day of the fire, the state said.
In all, the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued 25 citations against California's biggest oil company, including 11 "willful serious" and 12 lesser "serious" violations related to the blaze, the state said. The $963,200 fine is the highest in Cal-OSHA history, the agency said.