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OSHA uncovers slew of refinery violations

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl Do it for the Vine! Staff Member

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    March 9, 2008, 11:25PM

    OSHA uncovers slew of refinery violations

    Inspectors find 146 at 17 sites in what is only the start of a nationwide study


    By LISE OLSEN

    OSHA inspectors conducting an unprecedented national audit of U.S. refineries have found 146 violations — many described as potentially life-threatening — after reviewing just 17 refineries in a dozen states.

    Even though only 17 of 81 targeted U.S. refineries have been reviewed so far, those preliminary results are disturbing, Rich Fairfax, OSHA's director of enforcement, told the Houston Chronicle.

    "Based on the data we're finding and the number of violations, (the) program will continue," Fairfax said. "I have no intention of ending it after two years based on what we're finding."

    In fact, Fairfax said he wants it expanded to include chemical plants.

    The nationwide audit was launched last year in response to decades of U.S. refinery deaths, including the massive explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others at BP's Texas City refinery in March 2005.

    The Chronicle reported last month that at least 29 people have died in U.S. refinery accidents from 2005 to 2008, including 18 in four separate accidents at BP Texas City alone.

    The National Emphasis Program aims to cover 64 more refineries in the next two years.

    So far, they have uncovered 11 proposed violations at Total Petrochemicals USA's refinery in Port Arthur; 45 at a refinery in Canton, Ohio; and 19 at a Kansas refinery, among others. In eight months, inspectors have proposed $896,300 in penalties, according to information OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, compiled for this report.

    Several cases remain open, including one involving Total's Port Arthur plant. Most of the penalties made public relate to cases against four refineries in the Midwest, according to interviews and OSHA press releases.


    'Willful violation'

    On Dec. 19, OSHA proposed levying a $153,500 fine against a Kansas refinery for 19 violations. OSHA has alleged that Frontier El Dorado Refining Co. had committed one "willful violation" by locating a permanently occupied structure in a high hazard zone among refinery processing units. OSHA also alleged that Frontier El Dorado Refining Co. failed to address fire, explosion and chemical hazards. Many of those killed in March 2005 at BP Texas City were in offices dangerously near a processing unit.

    In OSHA lingo, a willful violation is among the worst. It involves an alleged blatant disregard of or indifference to an obvious safety hazard.

    The Kansas refinery is owned by Houston-based Frontier Oil Corp., an independent oil refining and marketing company. The company is contesting the fines and violations, according to Doug Aron, a company spokesman.

    Three more companies in Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois already have agreed to pay more than $600,000 in fines and to correct the unsafe conditions and practices, OSHA said.

    In Ohio, OSHA inspectors found that, among other defects, piping was inadequately protected from corrosion at a Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery. Marathon agreed to pay $321,500 in penalties in December — the biggest penalty levied under the program so far.

    "We appreciate OSHA's diligence in improving safety throughout the refining industry," said Angelia Graves, a spokesman for Marathon.

    In Illinois, Citgo agreed to pay $155,250 on Feb. 1 in response to safety problems found at its Lemont refinery, including potential fire hazards and inadequate training. Houston-based Citgo said it agreed to the penalty "solely for the purpose of settling this matter economically and amicably and has already initiated corrective actions."

    In Wisconsin, refinery manager Dave Podratz hadn't seen OSHA inspectors in 10 years when an inspection team showed up in August at the Murphy Oil USA facility on the shores of Lake Superior. Inspectors found that safety alarms had been deactivated at the state's only refinery. That and other problems led to a $179,100 agreed penalty.

    Podratz said the alarms had been viewed as a nuisance because they went off when doors to various control rooms were opened. Podratz said the alarms should have been modified rather than disconnected.

    But alarm malfunctions that failed to alert operators of dangerous conditions were among several problems uncovered in the aftermath of the BP Texas City disaster in 2005.

    Though no business is thrilled to see OSHA inspectors come knocking, Podratz said he views the OSHA refinery program as positive. "This is a program they're rolling out nationally, and there's not a lot you can do about it, but ultimately some good is going to come out of it, " he said.

    When the refinery program was launched last June, OSHA leaders said they aimed to reduce preventable deaths at refineries, one of the nation's most dangerous industries. Its directive said 52 employees have died in the past 15 years.

    Yet OSHA's own data undercounts refinery deaths because OSHA and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics don't classify deaths of contract workers as "refinery fatalities." Instead, such deaths typically get counted as construction — or even janitorial — accidents.

    Two BP refineries, in Texas City and Washington, account for 20 of the 29 deaths at U.S. refineries from 2005 to 2008, according to the Chronicle's review of government documents and other data. Nine others died at refineries of different companies in Texas, California, Minnesota, Delaware and Louisiana.

    BP's five U.S. refineries, deemed employers with repeated and persistent violations of federal safety rules, remain under OSHA's stepped-up "Enhanced Enforcement Program." BP was the first major energy company to be included in the so-called EEP, created in 2003 for companies found to have willful violations of workplace safety laws.

    But other major refiners have been cited more recently for alleged willful violations, including Frontier El Dorado, partly because of the national refinery program, according to OSHA documents and e-mails.


    Not all refineries included
    Despite the widespread problems, about 60 refineries, however, are exempt from the ongoing audit, in part because of their companies' past participation in other OSHA programs. Only about half of Texas' refineries will be included.

    Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist for United Steelworkers, the union that represents many refinery workers nationwide, said he believes no refineries should be excluded. But he also wonders whether the program isn't already stretching OSHA too thin. "How can they do all this without adding additional inspectors?" he asked.

    OSHA has few inspectors nationwide who specialize in refinery safety. In recent months, more than 300 inspectors have received crash courses of one to two weeks to assist with the National Emphasis Program.

    When Wisconsin's Murphy Oil refinery was inspected last summer, several of the OSHA officials involved had never been inside a refinery. Yet the inspectors offered "fresh eyes" and made suggestions that Podratz, the refinery manager, said will help. "Now we have names and faces and a relationship to build on," he said.

    lise.olsen@chron.com
  2. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    I see they do some good.
  3. Ben_n_austin

    Ben_n_austin Benched

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    This happens a lot to big businesses--particularly those with their checkbooks in the politicians pockets, which makes for bad law making and enforcement...

    This is the height of corruption in that there are two sides of the coin here: our own government and big business. The thing is, gov. protects Big B, because Big B takes care of the gov., in most cases.
  4. lewpac

    lewpac Benched

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    OSHA is an overbearing pain in the arse government stooge of the union-state "pro worker" idiocracy.
    Just another "in the way" vehicle set up by government to stand in the way of the "persute of happiness". It's not the job of government to do everything in it's power to stymie and cripple capitalism and personal endeavor. OSHA does little else besides just that. Just another hurdle for the entrepreneur and investor in business to get over.
  5. theebs

    theebs Believe!!!!

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    Your awesome. Its very entertaining to read your posts.
  6. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    Most of what they do is f with people and hand out fines.
  7. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    I love how so many think that OSHA is so much better and more efficient then the typical government agency.
  8. lewpac

    lewpac Benched

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    OSHA is the "Poster Boy" for liberal/union government bureaucracy siding with the "working man", of which we cannot do without. This idea that "America was built on the back of the 'working man' is a lie from hell......
    America was built on the back of the entrepreneur, the risk taker, the investor, the gamble.................without which there would be no "working man". Because without someone sticking their neck out, investing against whatever odds, and taking a chance, there'd be no "job" for the "working man".
    Anyone could play it safe, get a steady pay check, and get all the guaranteed stuff every week that the government dictates WE business owners HAVE TO PAY OUT!! It takes a little nuggets to put your financial life on the line week in and week out, trying to make ends meet.
    I have nothing against the "working man", unless OSHA and their cohorts label me the "bad guy" because I own the business and am nothing but a "bad guy" out to screw everyone.
    When I have a "bad year" the "working man" simply moves on to another job. I go bankrupt and have to re-finance my whole life to keep my head above water. And I get to listen to "all this money I'm making for you" from these idiots!! Tell you what.........when I have a bad year, do I get a "rebate" from all these "working mens" making me all this money????
  9. Jon88

    Jon88 Benched

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    I guess it depends on how much you pay your employees. Where I live the working man does get screwed while the bosses get rich.
  10. lewpac

    lewpac Benched

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    My employees are the highest paid dudes in my jurisdiction. That's why I got the best of the best.
    My beef is not with my employees. There are decent souls, good fathers, good family men who just want to get along. I take 5 of them (out of 30) to Vegas every year for their bonus, and I'm a generous and benevolent boss.
    My beef is with what the State and Feds make me tap dance to just to get along.
    If I could pay my guys $100.00 an hour, I would. Their worth it. I think the world of them ( a few of them). My foreman-types especially. Can't do it without 'em. I do all I can to make their lives nice, including vehicle maintenance, gas money, family needs, etc, etc, etc.............

    I used to "work" for a living, so I KNOW what it is to be crapped upon and dissed as an employee. I would never do that to my guys.............

    But OSHA and the like is a different story. Screw them. I don't need OSHA to dictate to me HOW to take care of my boys...................Just butt out and let us work (Painting contractor). Get out of the way and let us propser...................THAT's my beef....................
  11. Ben_n_austin

    Ben_n_austin Benched

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    ^^^I say height of moronic ^^^What an idiot. "idiocracy"-- I guess you'd rather let big "business" get
    away with injuring people and killing them.

    I'm wondering what to OSHA so long.
  12. Ben_n_austin

    Ben_n_austin Benched

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    Yes! Give me the FDA any day of the week. BAAAH!!!!

    Thanks for posting, WG. That's BS they took so long, imo.
  13. Ben_n_austin

    Ben_n_austin Benched

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    And you talk like you're a great boss/guy/person.. but they way you put your employees in parenthesis is gracious; what a guy... this world would be better of without these kinds of things, imo.
  14. lewpac

    lewpac Benched

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    I should've known better than to engage in this type of conversation with an "employee" for life. All the talking in the world, and you'll NEVER understand the crap ya' gotta' go through every week just to get YOU you're guaranteed paycheck, benifits and all the other "cradle to the grave" entitlements.......simply because you show up for work every day like your supposed to.
    Yeah, business owners are all a bunch of greedy, no good, injuring maggots who are out to get the "working man". Next time a shop goes out of business, YOU simply move on to another job, or collect your obligatory un-enjoyment check. We get to re-fi our homes for a quarter million just to keep out heads above water...............

    The poor, poor working man.............

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