Occupational Health & Safety

Tesoro Corp. operates seven refineries in the western United States.

Tesoro Refinery Wins OSHA Star

The highest possible achievement in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs has been earned by San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp.'s Mandan, N.D., refinery.

A strong sign of safety excellence, star status in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs, has been earned by San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp.'s Mandan, N.D., refinery. This is particularly noteworthy because Tesoro received a record $2.39 million fine last year from the Washington state Department of Labor & Industries in connection with an April 2, 2010, explosion that killed seven workers at another refinery it operates in Anacortes, Wash.

Greg Baxter, OSHA's regional administrator in Denver, said the star achievement "reflects a consistent focus and commitment to workplace safety and health at the Tesoro Mandan refinery. The employees, their union, and the company have analyzed workplace hazards, trained employees and contractors to prevent hazards, and held themselves to a high standard of performance." Mike Maslowski, an OSHA compliance assistance specialist in Bismarck, N.D., presented the VPP award at the refinery and said many of its procedures constitute best practices. "The site's emergency preparedness and response teams, proactive hazard analysis systems, 'Triangle of Prevention System' incident investigation program, and employee training systems are all noteworthy," he said, according to the OSHA Region 8 news release dated Jan. 24.

To earn a VPP star, a site must maintain employee injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry. Tesoro's Mandan facility is the only refinery in Region 8 -- Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado -- to receive it. The Mandan refinery began operating in 1954 and has a capacity of 58,000 barrels per day, processing mainly low-sulfur domestic crude oil from North Dakota, according to Tesoro's website.

The Washington state safety agency issued 39 willful violations and five serious violations to Tesoro after investigating the April 2 explosion. Its investigators concluded Tesoro did not test and inspect aging equipment, although its policies and generally accepted engineering practices called for it. Tests and inspections would have found cracks caused by decades of exposure to chemical and physical stresses, said Michael Silverstein, assistant director of L&I's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, when he released the inspection results Oct. 4, 2010.

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