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April 2, 2010

L&I inspectors to investigate fatal explosion at Tesoro refinery

TUMWATER – The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is investigating today’s fatal explosion at the Tesoro petroleum refinery in Anacortes.

“All of us at L&I are deeply saddened by the loss of life and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of those who have died and those who have been seriously injured,” said L&I Director Judy Schurke. “We’re going to take a hard look at the circumstances to determine whether there were violations of the law and what actions can be taken to prevent a future occurrence.”

The L&I team investigating the explosion consists of three inspectors and a compliance manager familiar with the plant from previous inspections. The team also has technical expertise in Process Safety Management (PSM). PSM focuses on a refinery’s development and implementation of systems designed to reduce or mitigate the potential for catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

Although L&I has opened an inspection, the team will not have access to the site until receiving clearance from incident command officials.

The investigation is expected to be complex, involving interviews, reviews of records, analysis of the scene, and laboratory work. The investigation could take up to six months.

In addition, the L&I inspection team will work closely with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency that investigates serious chemical accidents, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

L&I most recently inspected Tesoro in 2009, citing the company for 17 “serious” process safety management violations, with fines totaling $85,700. A “serious” violation is cited when there is the potential for death or serious physical injury from the violation.

L&I reached a settlement in November with Tesoro Refining and Marketing Co. that required them to correct hazards identified in the L&I inspection and to hire a third-party consultant to do an independent process-safety audit and to outline methods to correct safety issues identified by the audit.

It is not known at this time whether any of the hazards noted in the previous inspection were involved in today’s incident at the plant.

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For media information: Hector Castro, 360-902-6043

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