Valero, contractors fined for violations related to worker's death in 2021

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The Valero refinery next to the Houston Ship Channel is seen in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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May 20 (Reuters) - Valero Energy (VLO.N) and three contractors have been fined a total $1.75 million for safety violations related to a worker's death on Nov. 12, 2021 at its 145,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Benicia, California, a state regulator said on Thursday.

The 35-year-old worker had died from suffocating in a confined space in which leaking argon, an odorless gas, had displaced oxygen, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said in a statement.

The regulator said Valero and two out of the three contractors had "willful and serious violations" of safety guidelines for confined spaces.

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That implied investigators determined the employer "either knowingly violated the law or took no reasonable steps to address a known hazard" that could cause death or serious injury.

A contractor Total Safety was charged with six willful and serious violations and was levied the biggest penalty of $988,000, while Valero was fined $528,750 for four willful and serious violations.

Valero and Total Safety were not immediately available to respond to a Reuters' request for comment.

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Reporting by Deep Kaushik Vakil in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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