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OSHA proposes $222,500 in fines against Hovensa LLC for safety and health hazards at St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, oil refinery (12/4)

December 4, 2009
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OSHA has cited Hovensa LLC for 56 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its oil refinery located in Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The company faces a total of $222,500 in proposed fines following two OSHA inspections, a programmed inspection conducted as part of OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Petroleum Refinery Process Safety Management, and an inspection opened in response to a June 4 accident in which three workers suffered serious burns after being sprayed with hot boiler feed water while they were performing maintenance.

"OSHA's process safety management regulations are designed to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards associated with the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals," said José A. Carpena , OSHA's area director for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. "These requirements are stringent and detailed because failure to comply can seriously compromise the safety and health of workers."

The citations issued as a result of the programmed inspection address the company's failure to properly document process safety information, conduct proper process hazard analysis, comply with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices, obtain contractor safety and health programs, properly train employees, conduct maintenance on critical instruments and equipment, update operating procedures and resolve incident investigation findings in a timely manner. Additionally, OSHA has issued citations for not properly installing metal stairs, maintaining ladders in a safe condition, supporting piping systems and protecting them against physical damage and excessive stress, and for equipment deficiencies, a lack of machine guarding, and electrical and fire hazards.

The accident investigation resulted in citations for exposing workers to the hazards of hot water and steam condensate, not developing and documenting procedures to prevent the unintended release of hot water and steam, and not training workers on the safe application, usage and removal of energy control devices. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

"One means of helping ensure worker safety is for employers to establish an effective safety and health management system through which they and their employees work together to proactively evaluate, identify and eliminate hazards before they result in injury or illness," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

The oil refinery, which employs about 2,500 workers, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an information conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Puerto Rico Area Office; telephone: 787-277-1560.

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