Inspector Notes “History of Fires” at Valero; Union Calls for Industry Overhaul

(Memphis) Located on 250 acres, Valero Refining has a massive presence in Memphis. T

he company employs more than 300 people and refines crude oil that becomes gas for cars you and I drive and jet fuel for companies like FedEx.

Recently, however, the refinery has become known for something else.

The deadly, March 6th fire makes three in three years in Memphis.

Also, since 2008, the company has paid TOSHA more than $130,000 dollars in fines.

After an explosion and fire in the East Crude Unit in August of 2011, TOSHA hit Valero with 10 serious violations and more than $60,000 in fines. An investigator found employees hadn’t effectively trained on certain safety and health hazards and stated that a valve in question was defective, but could have been repaired with proper testing.  They also noted in a narrative that there was “a history of fires at this facility.”

A year before, there was another fire and TOSHA noted problems in the company’s own safety management plans.  Even in 2008 after a comprehensive, planned inspection, the company eventually paid more than $54,000 for violations.

United Steelworkers Health and Safety Specialist Kim Nibarger calls it an industry wide problem.

“It’s a tough industry to deal with, and I mean, quite frankly they’re the richest, most powerful corporations in the world and they’ve been in the habit of setting their own rules and regulations and like everybody else, they’re not open to change.”

Nibarger says the oil industry needs its own regulatory agency and tougher oversight.

“I think more input from employees that are on the ground floor would help them, I think more looking at past events and trying to be proactive.”

Valero faces $63,000 in fines for 16 alleged, serious violations for the March 6th fire that killed one contract worker and injured two others. 

TOSHA just released its findings and WREG On Your Side Investigators obtained a copy Wednesday morning.

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