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OSHA wallops plastics maker with $361,500 in penalties

October 29, 2004
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Formosa Plastics Corp. of Illiopolis, Ill., was walloped with $361,500 in penalties following its investigation into an April 23 explosion that took the lives of five workers, seriously injured three others and destroyed much of the facility.

OSHA issued citations for 45 alleged serious violations and three alleged willful violations of federal safety regs. Serious violations included allegations of a wide range of hazards associated with control of flammable liquid and ignition sources, insufficient worker training, electrical and lockout/tagout hazards, insufficient training on emergency response, organization, and equipping of fire brigade personnel, among others.

The alleged willful violations charged the company with failing to maintain fire protection equipment, failing to replace or repair defective equipment used in highly hazardous chemical processes, and inadequate inspections and tests of equipment used in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals.

Formosa Plastics employed some 136 workers in Illiopolis prior to the blast and approximately 4,000 workers company-wide. Formosa purchased the Illiopolis facility in 2002 and had no previous OSHA inspections.

A Formosa spokesman said the New Jersey-based company plans to challenge OSHA's findings, according to the Associated Press.

"We believe that we operated the plant safely and in accordance with the industry's best practices," he said, noting it had qualified for certification by the highly regarded International Organization for Standardization.

The plant manufactures polyvinyl chloride used in PVC pipe and other materials for construction, medical supplies and automotive parts. It has shut down now, and more than 40 percent of the employees have been laid off.

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