November 21, 2010 at 11:15 pm #2456
Laid-off workers say refinery safety lax
WARNING: They insist replacement workers weren’t qualified, increasing danger.
By Kristopher Hanson, Staff Writer
Updated: 11/20/2010 03:36:05 AM PST
WILMINGTON – Nearly six months after losing their jobs in a company shakeup, 24 refinery workers spoke out Friday against their former employer’s safety and labor record.
The group was joined by more than 100 lawmakers and community members in the shadow of the massive Tesoro Wilmington oil refinery, where a recent chemical spill brought an investigation by state officials.
The workers were laid off in July after they say Tesoro bused in dozens of untrained replacements to handle operations inside the firm’s petroleum coke unit.
Petroleum coke is a refined oil byproduct frequently used in coal-burning power plants.
“It’s pretty frightening when you think about it,” said Roy Juarez, a member of the laid-off team who had worked at the site 22 years. “They brought in this group with virtually no experience, gave them a crash-course on how to operate and just let them go. The thing is, the consequences if something went wrong can be fatal.”
Workers said they had a combined 350 years experience, but were replaced when Tesoro hired a new contractor, Savage Services, to handle the “coker” unit.
They’ve since collected 7,000 signatures from neighborhoods in Long Beach, San Pedro and Wilmington, which they plan to deliver to Tesoro.
“They’ve totally undermined the combined work force experience of people inside a critical (portion) of the refinery, and the community needs to know about it,” said Javier Chavez, another longtime veteran of local refineries. “It’s a ticking time bomb.”
Tesoro did not respond to media inquiries Friday.
On Oct. 5, firefighters responded to the refinery in the 2100 block of Pacific Coast Highway after about 30 barrels of naphtha, a flammable liquid used in petroleum distillation, burst out of a broken pipeline. The chemical was contained in a spill basin, but it took crews more than a day to clean the mess up.
And on Nov. 12, Tesoro’s Martinez refinery in Northern California suffered a sulfuric acid leak.
Just two days before that incident, authorities were forced to unleash public sirens after a power outage at the site caused massive flaring accompanied by a huge smoke cloud.
Nobody was injured, but the incident prompted small protests in the community. The sirens are sounded to notify people in nearby communities to take shelter.
The Martinez refinery is also handled by Savage Services, a contractor employing nearly 7,000 nationally in oil, coal production, power generation and related industries.
“There are tremendous safety issues with petroleum products and refining, not just for people in the work force, but the community,” said California State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, who joined the group. “They need to reconsider their decision. We’re not going to stand by while they try and take away local jobs and destroy this community.”
November 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm #5394
Here is article on Tesoro Wilimgton Refinery where laid off workers with 350 years combined experience claim Savage untraied replacement workers trying to operate coking unit are creating unsafe and dangerous environment.
Sounds like Savage is over reaching its coke handling by trying to move into coker operations. Several other groups have tried to make shift from petcoke handling & logistics into coking operations and it hasnt worked – the limit seems to be somewhere around coke-knockers (sometimes contract worker group that removes petocke from the drums) chores.
These companies just do not have skill set to be trying for operations and as it seems to be here often do not hire experienced past refinery operators to attempt the task but instead put untrained & inexperienced workers into the position a major reciepe for disaster.
I still hold the position that a great deal of the major refinery fires and accidents are often associated with contract labor which has not been included inside the refinery circle of safety review and training because they have been outsourced. Valero has been one of the few companies thusfar to include contractors inside the companies requirement and strict refinery safety practice.
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