The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued Equistar Chemicals LP in Tuscola, Ill., one willful and three serious safety citations following an explosion and fire at the plant on March 22. The willful citation is for failing to ensure a safe haven for workers in the company's alcohol unit in the event of a fire or explosion. Proposed penalties total $81,900.
"It is imperative that all manufacturers, especially those producing hazardous products, ensure all possible safety precautions are implemented in the workplace," said OSHA area director Nick Walters in Peoria, Ill. "This employer failed to implement safety recommendations that would do just that."
Equistar, a wholly owned subsidiary of LyondellBasell Industries, produces gaseous organic compounds such as ethylene, propylene and polyethylene used in manufacturing various products. OSHA conducted a process hazard analysis at the plant in January 2002 and recommended the company provide a safe haven for alcohol unit operators. Equistar was issued the recent willful citation and a $63,000 penalty for failing to implement the 2002 recommendation in a timely manner and to communicate that safety recommendation to its employees. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.
Equistar was issued serious citations for failing to document that equipment is in compliance with good engineering practices; ensure and document that plant equipment is designed, maintained, inspected, tested and operated in a safe manner; and inspect and test equipment in accordance with manufacturer recommendations. Those fines carry a combined penalty of $18,900. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.
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.