The Cal/OSHA Process Safety Management Unit cited Valero Refinery of Benicia and three contractors a combined $1.75 million for serious safety violations following a confined space death of a 35-year-old worker who suffocated in a regenerator overflow well.
Cal/OSHA inspectors cited three of the four employers with willful and serious violations after determining that they failed to follow confined space guidelines, including the failure to determine acceptable entry conditions for the employee, which reportedly resulted in exposure to an oxygen-deficient atmosphere.
Shortly before midnight on Nov. 12, 2021, the worker lost consciousness after descending into a regenerator overflow well at the Benicia refinery to evaluate the condition of the well interior and perform cleaning operations in advance of a welding crew. He was found inside the regenerator suspended by fall protection equipment. A refinery emergency rescue team retrieved him. Benicia Fire Department and Valero Refinery Fire Department performed medical treatment on-site but were unable to resuscitate him.
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.