L&I Fines Phillips 66 Refinery $324,000 for Unabated Hazards

The 2014 citations are under appeal to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, but state law requires employers to correct hazards even if the violations are under appeal unless a "stay of abatement" is granted, and the energy company's stay of abatement request was denied by the board.

Washington state's Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has fined the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale $324,000 after its inspection found it had failed to correct serious violations that put refinery workers "at great risk in case of a fire or explosion," according to the agency.

L&I cited the refinery for three failure to abate violations, in this case for not correcting violations for which it was previously cited in September and October 2014. The 2014 citations are under appeal to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, but state law requires employers to correct hazards even if the violations are under appeal unless a "stay of abatement" is granted to allow a delay in making the corrections, and the energy company's stay of abatement request was denied by the board, according to L&I's Jan. 15 announcement.

Two of the violations bear a penalty of $108,000 and involve the refinery's firefighting and fire suppression systems. "Phillips did not inspect or follow recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices in respect to the firefighting water tank or the buried firefighting water distribution piping. Inspection and maintenance of these systems is required by state regulation and the National Fire Protection Association. The company also failed to address the potential loss of firefighting water, which puts employees and emergency responders at risk of serious injuries, disability or death if the system were to fail during a fire or explosion," according to the release, which says L&I also cited Phillips and penalized it $108,000 for for not consulting established, peer-reviewed industry references before writing a policy related to opening chemical piping.

Phillips 66 has 15 days to appeal the citation.

On Jan. 12, L&I announced a fine four times larger in another enforcement case: Zodiac Cabin & Structures Support LLC has been fined $1,316,000 for workplace safety and health violations after a curing oven explosion hurt 17 workers at its carbon fiber production plant in Newport, Wash., last July. The agency's investigation lasted nearly six months and concluded the explosion could have been prevented if Zodiac had used required safety interlocks and safeguards to ensure the oven was used safely and as advised in a consulting engineer's report.

L&I cited the employer for 17 willful violations for knowingly and willfully exposing workers to the risk of serious injuries; each count carried the maximum penalty of $70,000. "Had this explosion occurred during the day when many more workers were present, there could have been many more injuries and possibly even deaths," said Anne Soiza, L&I's assistant director of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. "As it is, 17 people were injured and their lives put at risk from an incident that was highly predictable given the operating conditions."

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