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California refinery refuses industrial accident investigation

When an accident injures workers, research must follow to determine the cause. Knowing the cause of an accident can ensure workers are better protected in the future. Ideally, the company would welcome a properly run investigation.

Refinery workers and those employed at similar Los Angeles job sites may have already heard of the current situation unfolding at the Tesoro refinery in Martinez. Federal officials allege Tesoro's management is blocking an inquiry into an industrial accident. The accident at the refinery occurred on Feb. 12. Equipment attached to a large process tank experienced a mechanical breach. The tank housed concentrated sulfuric acid as well as flammable hydrocarbons. The breach resulted in approximately five gallons of sulfuric acid to leak per minute.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is tasked with compiling information on the accident. The board reports that after the leak, two workers were splashed with sulfuric acid. The acid spattered on exposed parts of the workers’ bodies, including their faces. They experienced first-degree and second-degree burns and required treatment at a hospital burn unit.

In addition, the CSB states that Tesoro did not provide required protective equipment for workers for the purpose of conducting sampling.

The CSB now claims they have been barred from returning to the refinery to continue their investigation. The board also says the obstruction raises the prospect that Tesoro may be trying to cover up other problems.

Tesoro, however, counters that the occurrence was not significant enough to necessitate a CSB investigation. Despite having been contacted for comment, Tesoro management remains silent on the subject.

If an industrial worker accident is caused by employer negligence, the injured party needs to be aware of his or her rights for potential compensation. In the event an employer is attempting to circumvent the process of discovery, legal representation can help expose the truth.

Source: ktvu.com, “Tesoro refinery blocks federal inquiry into accident,” Feb. 26, 2014

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