CITGO Facing $236K Fine Following 'Catastrophic' Chemical Release

OSHA has cited CITGO Refining and Chemicals LP in Corpus Christi, Texas, for workplace safety violations resulting from a catastrophic release of hydrocarbon and hydrofluoric acid from the alkylation unit at the facility. Proposed penalties total $236,500.

"CITGO did not ensure adequate maintenance and oversight of its process safety equipment, exposing workers to the release of toxic chemicals and posing a danger to not only the company's employees but to the community, as well," said Dean McDaniel, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas.

OSHA has alleged two willful, 15 serious, and one repeat violation following an investigation that began July 20, 2009. The willful violations include failing to adequately repair and maintain process equipment, and to update changes in operating procedures. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.

Serious violations include failing to maintain floor holes to prevent employees from tripping, to properly label electrical equipment, to prevent exposure to electrical parts, to update piping and instrumentation diagrams, and to address process hazard analysis deficiencies. A serious violation is one that could cause death or physical harm that can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

The repeat violation addresses failing to train workers regarding modified procedures. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously was cited for the same or similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule, or order at any other facilities in federal enforcement states within the last three years.

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

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