The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Heartland Refinery in Columbus, Ohio, with one alleged serious safety violation for failing to control the release of flammable liquids and vapors resulting in a July 17, 2010, fire at the facility. The refinery also has been cited with two repeat violations for problems that existed in March 2010 and were found in July 2010 not to have been corrected, as well as one failure-to-abate violation first brought to the company's attention by OSHA in 2009. Proposed penalties total $68,900.

"Failing to follow proper procedures to prevent the unintentional release of flammable vapors and liquids in an area where a known ignition source exists creates a serious safety risk to workers, and as this case shows, a high risk of fire in the workplace," said OSHA area director Deborah Zubaty in Columbus. "There is no excuse for this type of complacency, and OSHA will do all it can to protect employees in the workplace."

The fire occurred when a flange or fitting in the process area failed to contain flammable liquids, which then leaked to an ignition source. The serious violation carries a penalty of $4,900. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

Heartland Refinery also has been issued two repeat safety violations for failing to identify piping containing flammable or combustible liquids, and to develop and document hazardous energy control procedures for refinery processes. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously was cited for the same or similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Those penalties carry fines of $14,000.

The company, which re-refines motor oil through a hydrogenation process resulting in reusable clean base oil, also has been cited for failing to abate a 2009 violation, which required the development of an arc flash analysis program for workers exposed to energized electrical equipment exceeding 480 volts. The penalty accompanying this failure-to-abate violation is $50,000.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its current citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission