OSHA releases findings, penalties for deadly Chevron explosion

Image source: Matt Defelice.
Image source: Matt Defelice.

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued $24,000 in citations to Chevron USA, Inc. related to the November 15, 2013 explosion that left one worker dead at the company's Pascagoula refinery.

OSHA launched a month long investigation into the refinery after a processing unit exploded, killing 46-year-old Tonya Graddy of Semmes, AL. Graddy had been an employee at the refinery for five years.

This report gives us the first official glimpse into what happened early on that fateful November morning. OSHA officials tell us the catastrophic incident all started with a power outage. The report mentions an emergency shutdown that apparently took place in the furnace unit Graddy was working just before the explosion.

Officials say the emergency shutdown was needed after the plant went down due to a power outage, and a furnace exploded when workers were lighting a series of burners to bring the plant back online.

OSHA claims Chevron failed to provide clear instructions to operators for proper startup and use procedures after an emergency shutdown. The citation notification issued to Chevron by OSHA said the same startup procedures were used for normal startup and startup after an emergency shutdown.

OSHA also claims proper furnace purging procedures were not performed on the furnace that eventually exploded and killed Graddy. OSHA said Chevron did not provide clear documentation stating that every employee understood proper hazardous conditions training, and substitute management of change procedures did not address the impact of change on safety and health.

Going forward, Chevron is left with three options after receiving the citation notification last Thursday. Chevron has a 15 business day window to comply to the penalties, request an informal meeting with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

This incident was not the first tragedy to happen at Chevron's Pascagoula refinery. In August of 2007, a fire was ignited in one of two crude processing units which processed 330,000 barrels of crude oil each day. In 2003, an employee was killed on the job when he fell from scaffolding.

Chevron officials tell WLOX News they are still reviewing the citation notification.

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