TOSHA Fines Valero $63K for March Fire

(Memphis)  There are new details regarding the March fire at the Valero refinery in Memphis that killed one contract worker and injured two others. 

The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or TOSHA has completed its investigation and WREG On Your Side Investigators received a redacted copy of portions of the report.

The company was hit with a proposed $63,000 in fines for 16, serious, alleged violations.

TOSHA listed the potential cause as “failure to isolate and control ignition sources and allowing air into the piping that allows ignition.”

Read the Valero report

According to TOSHA’s report, on the day of the fire, three contract employees from JV Industrial were working between a knock out drum and the South Flare tower.      

The problem as it’s outlined in the investigation was that these workers weren’t protected from dangerous gases still left in the drum, and a pipe.

Plus, the pilot to the south flare was still on.

A person whose name was redacted said during an interview that workers were protected from the inhalation hazard, but not the fire hazard. 

The report states during the incident, the workers clothes were on fire and protective gear was not provided.

Inspectors discovered the workers had asked for fire protection clothing, but that request was denied.  

One of the violations is “protective equipment and clothing were not provided and used when necessary.”
 
Among some of the others, TOSHA says Valero didn’t develop and implement safe work practices to provide for the control of hazards, and the employer did not establish a program consisting of energy control procedures.
 
TOSHA didn’t comment on the findings, because it’s still an open investigation. 

There’s an upcoming hearing regarding the case.

Valero can of course appeal the fines. 

A spokesperson wouldn’t comment further because of pending litigation. 

Workers filed a lawsuit in Texas that alleges severe and gross negligence. 

Their attorney, Anthony Buzbee says TOSHA’s findings were expected and warranted, “All of the companies involved in the work created a dangerous situation.”

As for the workers, Buzbee says Daniel Cuevas is still in the hospital with burns to more than 70% of his body.

His brother Nicolas Cuevas was the one who passed away after the fire. 

Buzbee says Guadalupe Torres was released, but suffered burns to 45% of his body. 

He says there were others that have orthopedic injuries and are still undergoing treatment.  Buzbee says he expects to go to trial next fall.

 
 


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