Process Safety Management Failings at Refinery Lead to $130,500 in Fines

OSHA has cited Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. for safety and health violations, proposing $130,500 in penalties. The petroleum refinery in Commerce City, Colo., has 384 employees.

OSHA began its investigation Sept. 8, 2008, as part of a National Emphasis Program focusing on petroleum refinery process safety management. As a result, the company was issued 26 serious violations with combined proposed penalties of $81,000 and one willful violation with a proposed penalty of $49,500.

"Failure to follow OSHA's process safety management standard can lead to a catastrophic failure in a refinery," said Herb Gibson, the agency's area office director in Denver. "It is imperative that Suncor Energy abate these hazards to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for its employees."

The willful violation is due to the company's failure to appropriately test gas monitors for hydrogen sulfide and combustible gas in the HVAC systems for the control rooms. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The serious violations include numerous instances of the company's failure to follow the process safety management standard for the processing of hazardous chemicals; address safe distances and refuge for the emergency response plan; provide industrial trucks which are rated for hazardous locations; and guard ladder way openings. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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