On November 22, 2016, an explosion at a Baton Rouge refinery injured four workers, two of them severely. The incident involved a sulfuric-acid alkylation unit that produces octane-boosting components for gasoline. A worker turned a valve stem on the unit using a wrench and, due to malfunctions, pieces of the valve fell out. When this happened, isobutane released, which then ignited due to a welding machine 70 feet away. One worker was knocked off a scaffolding and suspended above the resulting fire. Another suffered burns over most of her body.
Recently, United States regulators fined Exxon Mobil Corp. $165,000, claiming that the incident was due to safety lapses. These include inadequate training and equipment maintenance. Additionally, Exxon failed to carry out required inspections within the required time periods.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued nine citations, several of which are reminiscent of previous citations at other Exxon plants. The Chemical Safety Board is still investigating the incident as well.
Exxon has since announced it will contest the fine.
Employers have a duty of care to employees to take all reasonable precautions to protect worker safety. When an employer violates this duty of care in some way, such as failure to train employees, failure to maintain equipment or failure to inspect equipment in a timely manner, that company can be liable for the sometimes catastrophic injuries that can result.