* Seven killed in Anacortes, Washington, blast April 2
* Largest fine ever levied by state agency
* Tesoro says reviewing state probe
(Adds background, CSB probe paragraphs 14-18)
By Erwin Seba
HOUSTON, Oct 4 Washington state fined Tesoro
Corp (TSO.N) $2.38 million for an April 2 blast at the
company's Anacortes refinery that killed seven workers, after a
state investigation found the explosion could have been
"The bottom line is this tragedy was preventable," said
Judy Schurke, director of the state's Department of Labor &
Industries, at a news conference Monday in Mount Vernon,
The fine -- the biggest the state agency has ever levied --
follows a probe of the blast that found 39 willful violations
and five serious violations of worker safety standards.
Tesoro has 15 working days to appeal the findings. If it
appeals, the fines will be put on hold until the process is
A Tesoro spokesman said the company was reviewing the
"We cannot comment further until we have had time to
thoroughly review the Labor & Industries citations," said
Tesoro spokesman Lynn Westfall.
Investigators found Tesoro failed to follow safety
regulations, industry practices and the company's own policies
with regard to inspection and maintenance of a heat exchanger
on a naphtha hydrotreater.
"Without proper testing, I don't think it was a question of
whether it would blow up but when it would blow up," said Dr.
Michael Silverstein, assistant director of the division of
Occupational Safety and Health for the Labor & Industries
Seven workers were engulfed in a huge fireball early on
April 2. The blast resulted from welds on an operating heat
exchanger failing, the investigation found.
The workers were attempting to restart another heat
exchanger on the hydrotreater when the fireball caught them off
The heat exchanger had last been properly inspected in 1998
and was scheduled for inspection in 2008. That inspection did
not take place, investigators found.
The welds failed because cracks had developed over the
40-year lifespan of the heat exchanger.
"If Tesoro had tested their equipment appropriately and had
followed their other safety requirements, we believe that they
would have found the cracks that caused this explosion and,
either by replacing the equipment or repairing it, prevented
this from happening," Silverstein said.
Inspections of the Tesoro refinery prior to the explosion
found problems similar to those revealed in the explosion,
"Each time we've been in this refinery, we've found similar
problems," he said.
Tesoro is not the only refiner Washington regulators have
found to violate maintenance and accident prevention standards
in process safety management, Silverstein said.
"We've seen similar problems in all the refineries in
Washington," he said. "The federal government has found similar
problems at refineries across the country."
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said it continues an
investigation into the explosion.
(Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)