9/17/2014

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Business

Victim's father hopes Tesoro report can avert future tragedies

Victim's father hopes Tesoro report can avert future tragedies

ANACORTES, Wash. -- Public feedback has begun on a new report detailing mistakes that caused a deadly explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes.

The opportunity gave one blast victim's father a chance to reflect on whether the proposed fixes will make anyone safer. Hershel Janz says he's reminded of his son everyday.

"I look over at the refinery and i see where my boy died," Janz said, whose home in Anacortes has a clear view of the Tesoro facility.

His son, Lew Janz, was among seven workers killed by the explosion. The Gulf War veteran was engaged to be married and survived for several days in the hospital.

"We were with him when he took his last breath," his father said. "The whole family was there."

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board now has a new report detailing how the accident happened. It found that Tesoro's failure to use safe equipment and their own poor inspection procedures put workers in unnecessarily dangerous situations. Cracks in equipment went unrepaired and staff came to accept them as standard operating procedure.

"It became part of the site culture," said one of the spokespeople for the Chemical Safety Board. "A leak occurred, they weren't addressed, and it became normalized."

At his kitchen table, Janz walked us through his scrapbook of went went wrong to take his son's life. He says he understands it was an accident, and isn't bitter, but is extremely disappointed by the refinery.

"I don't want to let Tesoro off the hook at all," he said.

Aside from Tesoro's missteps, the Chemical Safety Board also faulted industry standards as too lax - and state inspectors as too ineffective - which contributed to this tragedy.

The report identifies 40 problems that led to the explosion, and gives a long list of suggested fixes.

"We're just hoping that this helps prevent other families from going through what we have all gone through," Janz said.

Tesoro issued a statement regarding the Chemical Safety Board's report:

"Tesoro deeply regrets the incident of that day. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our seven co-workers who lost their lives. The Company recognizes the public receipt of the CSB's draft investigation report and acknowledges the efforts of CSB investigation teams, despite the significant and successive turnover in the agency's assigned personnel over the years. We respectfully disagree with several findings in the draft report and, most importantly, take exception to CSB's inaccurate depiction of our process safety culture. However, despite any disagreements regarding the draft report, Tesoro anticipates discussing the CSB's recommendations with the agency once the report is finalized and will consider them in light of the steps we have taken and are continuing to take to improve the safety of our facilities."

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