Damage to the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance from an explosion is seen from 190th Street. Photo by John Schreiber.
Damage to the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance from an explosion is seen from 190th Street. Photo by John Schreiber.

State regulators issued 19 citations to ExxonMobil Refinery Supply Co. over a February explosion at the company’s refinery in Torrance that injured four workers, and proposed penalties totaling $566,600.

Cal/OSHA officials said 18 of the 19 citations stemming from the Feb. 18 blast are classified as serious because they could have caused death or serious injury.

Gesuina Paras, public and government affairs adviser for ExxonMobil, said the company is “reviewing the citations to determine the appropriate administrative and legal next steps.”

“We have and will continue to work cooperatively with Cal/OSHA,” Paras said.

According to Cal/OSHA, six of the 19 violations were classified as “willful” because regulators determined that the company “did not take action to eliminate known hazardous conditions at the refinery and intentionally failed to comply with state safety standards.”

ExxonMobil has 15 days to appeal the citations to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board.

The explosion sent a plume of black smoke into the air and rained ash over adjacent neighborhoods. Area schools were told the shelter in place and residents were advised to keep their windows closed and remain inside.

A preliminary report by the South Coast Air Quality Management District determined the blast was caused by over-pressurization in an air-pollution- control system, or electrostatic precipitator.

Cal/OSHA officials said eight workers were decontaminated after the blast, and four were hospitalized with minor injuries.

“Petroleum refineries have the responsibility to keep workers safe, and to also protect nearby communities and the environment,” said Christine Baker, director of the state Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). “This investigation revealed severe lapses in Exxon’s safety protocols.”

Cal/OSHA officials said a 2007 safety review found problems with flammable vapor in the plant’s electrostatic precipitator, but no corrective actions were taken. Regulators noted that the plant’s fluid catalytic cracker had not been working properly for as long as nine years prior to the blast.

– City News Service 

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