Exxon Mobil Corp’s refinery in Baton Rouge, La., exposed workers to possible fires and explosions among other safety violations, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in a report released last month. “It is fortunate that in this case that no one was injured,” the federal worker-safety agency’s Baton Rouge area director, Dorinda Folse, said in a statement. The 502,000-barrels-per-day refinery, the country’s second largest, faces $126,000 in fines for the 20 serious and two other-than-serious violations found by the agency in a March 14 inspection.
Exxon, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, reported a second-quarter profit of $10.68 billion. The violations found by the agency included failures to investigate incidents as related to process safety management, failure to repair equipment and failure to address inconsistent thickness measurements found in pressure vessel inspections. While the fines are large, not all interested parties agree that the amount is enough. For example, USW International Vice President Gary Beevers said in a statement:
The proposed penalties are a drop in the bucket for a company that reported a second-quarter profit of $10.68 billion. Exxon Mobil should be glad it got off cheaply. If workers had been killed as a result of the company’s health and safety violations it would have cost the company a whole lot more.
The agency began a program of inspections at the country’s 150 refineries in 2007, following a federal investigation of a 2005 explosion at BP Plc’s Texas City refinery that killed 15 workers and injured 180 other people. In its final report issued in 2007, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board found fault with refining industry standards and OSHA’s oversight while assigning most of the blame to BP management for the blast. One failing the safety board cited in the BP explosion was not seeing malfunctions as near-misses of catastrophic failures at the refinery.
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