12 December 2013 00:10 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--US producer Williams Olefins faces a $99,000 (€72,270) fine from the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) after the agency said on Wednesday that it found six process safety management standard violations during an investigation into the deadly 13 June plant explosion and fire in Geismar, Louisiana.
Two people died and 80 were injured in the accident, which occurred after a propylene fractionator exploded.
“Williams Olefins violated safety and health standards which, when followed, can protect workers from hazardous chemicals,” said Dorinda Folse, OSHA’s area director in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“It is the employer’s responsibility to find and fix workplace safety violations and to ensure the safety of its workers. Failing to do so cost two workers their lives,” she added.
“Williams cooperated in a full and transparent manner to support OSHA's investigation, and we are in the process of reviewing the analysis,” said John Dearborn, senior vice president of the company’s NGL and Petchem Services division.
“In addition to conducting our own internal incident investigation, we are committed to learning from OSHA's report to further enhance safety at the Geismar plant and across our organisation,” he added.
The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is also conducting its own investigation into the accident.
Of the six violations cited by OSHA, one was termed “willful” – failing to develop clear, written procedures for how to change and put idle pressure vessels into service.
OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The other five violations were labelled by OSHA as “serious” – when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
OSHA said that the five serious violations were inadvertently mixing hot quench water with propylene; failing to provide appropriate pressure protection for a pressure vessel; failing to complete a process hazard analysis to address the opening of hot quench water flow into a pressure vessel; failing to properly document workplace training; and failing to promptly correct deficiencies related to process safety management discovered by an internal compliance audit team.
The Geismar plant had been in a turnaround to add capacity to the then-612,000 tonnes/year facility, which had been annually producing 1.3bn lb (590,000 tonnes) of ethylene and 90m lb of polymer-grade propylene (PGP), according to the company’s website.
The plant is scheduled to restart in April with a capacity of 885,000 tonnes/year, Williams has said.
Williams has 15 days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, to request an informal conference or to contest the findings.
The company on Wednesday did not say which of the options it plans to choose. It noted in a news release that prior to the 13 June incident, the Geismar Olefins plant “achieved an exceptional and long-standing safety record, with no lost-time accidents having occurred at the plant since 2009”.
“Safety and the protection of employees and communities in which Williams does business is, and always has been, our number one priority," Dearborn said.
($1 = €0.73)
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