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

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FILE PHOTO: The Valero refinery next to the Houston Ship Channel

(Reuters) - Valero Energy 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.

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.

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

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