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OSHA hammers BP again: $3 million proposed penalty for alleged violations at Ohio refinery (3/10)

March 10, 2010
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OSHA has cited BP North American Inc. and BP-Husky Refining LLC’s refinery in Oregon, Ohio, with 42 alleged willful violations, including 39 on a per-instance basis, and 20 alleged serious violations for exposing workers to a variety of hazards including failure to provide adequate pressure relief for process units. Proposed penalties total $3,042,000.

“OSHA has found that BP often ignored or severely delayed fixing known hazards in its refineries,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “There is no excuse for taking chances with people’s lives. BP must fix the hazards now.”

OSHA began its inspection at the refinery located near Toledo, Ohio, in September 2009 as part of the agency’s Refinery National Emphasis Program and as a follow-up to a 2006 inspection and a 2007 settlement agreement between OSHA and BP at this location. Although the 2009 inspection found that BP had complied with the settlement agreement, OSHA found numerous violations at the plant not previously covered by the agreement.

The inspection revealed that workers were exposed to serious injury and death in the event of a release of flammable and explosive materials in the refinery because of numerous conditions constituting violations of OSHA’s process safety management standard. OSHA has issued willful citations for numerous failures to provide adequate pressure relief for process units, failures to provide safeguards to prevent the hazardous accumulation of fuel in process heaters, and exposing workers to injury and death from collapse of or damage, in the event of a fire, to nine buildings in the refinery. Additional willful citations allege various other violations of OSHA’s standard addressing process safety management. These citations carry proposed penalties totaling $2,940,000.

The serious citations address a variety of other hazards, including violations of other requirements of the process safety management standard. These carry proposed penalties totaling $102,000.

Since 1991, this refinery has been inspected 12 times. Nationally, BP Products North American has been inspected by OSHA 44 times at various sites and is facing pending cases in which 439 willful citations and failure-to-abate notices were issued to its Texas City Refinery as a result of a 2009 inspection. Proposed penalties in those pending cases total $87 million, the largest penalties by far ever proposed by OSHA. BP’s Texas City Refinery experienced a devastating explosion and fire in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured 170. A large portion of the penalties proposed for the Texas City Refinery results from OSHA’s allegations that BP failed to fully live up to a settlement agreement entered into after the explosion. BP has contested the citations, notifications of failure-to-abate and the proposed penalties in those cases.

BP North American Inc. operates and jointly owns the refinery with Canadian-based Husky Energy Inc. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an information conference with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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