Williams Olefins LLC in Geismar, LA, is facing $99,000 in fines for six process safety management standard violations, including one willful after an explosion in June killed two workers and injured 80 people, said officials at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Process safety management encompasses a detailed set of requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards proactively associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, it was the use of propylene.
“Williams Olefins violated safety and health standards which, when followed, can protect workers from hazardous chemicals,” said Dorinda Folse, OSHA’s area director in Baton Rouge. “It is the employer’s responsibility to find and fix workplace safety violations and to ensure the safety of its workers. Failing to do so cost two workers their lives.”
The willful violation was for failing to develop clear, written procedures for how to change and put idle pressure vessels into service. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
The five serious violations include inadvertently mixing hot quench water with propylene; failing to provide appropriate pressure protection for a pressure vessel; complete a process hazard analysis to address the opening of hot quench water flow into a pressure vessel; properly document workplace training; and promptly correct deficiencies related to process safety management discovered by an internal compliance audit team. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Williams Olefins is a subsidiary of Williams Partners LP, headquartered in Tulsa, OK, and employs about 4,700 workers corporatewide. The Geismar location employs about 127 workers and specializes in the production of natural gas, ethylene and propylene.