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Four employers fined a combined $1.75M in refinery worker death


The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Process Safety Management Unit cited Valero Refinery of Benicia and three contractors a combined $1.75 million for safety violations following the death of a 35-year-old worker.

Luis Gutierrez suffocated in a regenerator overflow well in November 2021. Cal/OSHA said he went into the well for an evaluation and to prepare it for a welding crew.

“Inspectors determined that a welding torch was left in the well that was leaking argon, an odorless gas that displaced oxygen inside the confined space,” Cal/OSHA said in a statement on Thursday.

Violations cited include failure to evaluate the workplace to determine the need for confined space permits, and failure to ensure employees monitor unauthorized entrants into workspaces.

Total Safety, a specialty trade contractor, received the largest penalty, $988,000. Valero Refinery faces $528,750 in fines. Masonry contractor JT Thorpe & Son faces a fine of $135,500, and T.R.S.C. Inc, a foundation contractor, was fined $101,125.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.