August 21, 2014 / 3:57 AM / 5 years ago

Petrobras worker dies from burns in refinery explosion

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A worker severely burned in an accident at a Petrobras refinery in the Brazilian city of Manaus died of his injuries on Wednesday, union officials representing workers at the company said.

The Brazilian union for petroleum workers, FUP, said the tragedy highlighted the worsening working conditions at Petrobras plants, saying the accident was the sixth in a week at different refineries run by Brazil’s state-run oil company.

The worker, Antonio Rafael Santana, 26, suffered first, second and third degree burns to 75 percent of his body after gasses from a water and oil waste pool at the Reman Refinery ignited while he was inspecting a faulty pump, the union said.

Petrobras said that company was extending assistance to Santana’s family and had installed a committee to investigate the accident.

FUP said there was also an accident on Saturday at the REDUC refinery in the state of Rio de Janeiro, in which a worker suffered injuries to his face, neck and eyes after being hit by an oil mix at 180 degrees temperature.

The refinery had suffered three other accidents earlier in the week, according to Petrobras. It said all four workers involved were back on the job and investigations into the causes of the accidents were started.

Petrobras said there was also an accident at the Cubatao refinery in Sao Paulo state on Monday, in which a worker suffered localized burns to the neck and shoulders. He is recovering well, the company said.

The accident late Saturday at REMAN did not affect output at the refinery.

Union officials say Petrobras’s refineries are operating at more than 95 percent of capacity in an effort to reduce money-losing imports with maintenance being cut back to dangerously low levels.

Petrobras recently announced an early retirement plan to cut costs that could see one in eight employees leave the company. The union has previously expressed concern over so many older and experienced workers leaving the company.

Reporting by Jeb Blount, Stephen Eisenhammer and Reese Ewing; Editing by Tom Brown, Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker

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