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Potential hazards at California refineries may go unchecked

Employees at Los Angeles area oil refineries are well versed on potential dangers inherent in their work environment. Due to the combustible nature of the chemicals involved in the process of refining crude oil, vigilant adherence to safety regulations is paramount to ensure worker safety at refineries. Any sort of breach may cause toxic exposure to those working in the vicinity.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with conducting inspections to ensure refinery safety conditions are up to standard. However, OSHA is currently suffering from a dearth of inspectors. This inspector shortfall is cited as a cause for alleged lax safety standards at many of the nation's refineries, including those located in California.

Following a 2012 accident in Richmond, California, Gov. Jerry Brown commissioned a report which examined relevant aspects pertaining to refinery operations. The report covered health and safety issues as well as potential environmental threats created in California’s refineries.

According the report, the regulatory process is rife with difficulties. One difficulty cited was securing, training and retaining inspectors. The report also notes that regulatory agencies suffer problems with data coordination and dissemination. And finally, the report states that current penalties are not sufficient to produce significant prevention of violations.

The short staffing of health and safety inspectors is profound. California's OSHA division, Cal/OSHA employs 170 inspectors to cover 18.6 million working persons, which includes those working at refineries. Clearly this deficit creates the potential for a large numbers of hazards to go unchecked.

As previously stated, the process of refining crude oil involves the use of large volumes of toxic chemicals, exposure to which can cause serious health issues or even death. If you are having difficulties obtaining recompense from your employer after experiencing negative effects from toxic exposure, you may wish to consider seeking counsel for information on how to handle the situation.

Source: peoplesworld.org. “Regulatory oversight weak in aftermath of Texas City oil plant blast,” Mark Gruenberg, March 21, 2014

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