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OSHA Fines Williams Olefins for Willful Behavior in Geismar Explosion

On June 13, 2013, the Geismar plant explosion injured 114 people and killed two when the chemical plant went up in flames. At the time of the accident, investigators did not determine any dangerous levels of chemicals around the plant. Area residents were told to remain indoors regardless and to keep doors and windows closed just in case the explosion caused dangerous chemicals to escape into the air.

The company responsible for the explosion is Williams Olefins. After months of investigation and research, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration believes the accident could have been avoided. OSHA has taken corrective actions against Williams Olefins by fining the entity $99,000 for willful behavior that contributed to the accident. The OSHA announced on Wednesday that it cited Williams Olefins for six safety violations. One of these violations was considered a "willful violation." This means that the workers at the plant were aware of the violation and still did nothing to correct the action.

About the OSHA's Findings of Willful Violations

To give more detail, OSHA's Baton Rouge director claims Williams Olefins failed to fix safety violations to ensure the safety of the workers at the plant. OSHA believes that if the company had been more proactive in seeking out safety violations and working to correct them, then the two workers at the plant may still be alive.

The OSHA explains that the willful violation is due to the fact that the company didn't lay out clear procedures for how workers should get idle pressure vessels ready for service. A press released by the OSHA defines willful violation as one that is committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements.

OSHA also says there was a rupture in a heat exchanger at the Geismar plant, which is what directly caused the explosion. The company plans to start back up in April of 2014 and is working on an expansion. The company allegedly also violated procedure by misusing the equipment that uses large amounts of propylene. This is a hazardous chemical that can cause explosions and also result in toxic exposure to workers.

A 29-year-old man and another 47-year-old man were both killed in the accident. While the OSHA press release reports that 80 people were injured in the count, other reports show that up to 114 people suffered injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening in the explosion. In addition to the violations listed above, the company has been cited for mixing hot water with the propylene, failing to document workplace training, failing to correct deficiencies that were discovered by the internal compliance audit, and failing to provide pressure protection for a pressure vessel on the property. The OSHA says that if Williams Olefins had corrected these measures, then the individuals who died in the explosion may still be alive today.

Williams Olefins has 15 business days to pay the $99,000 fine or contest the OSHA's findings. In addition to the OSHA's findings, The Chemical Safety Board has been reviewing the blast. The agency is currently administering metallurgical testing to discover what went wrong with the failed heat exchanger. Williams Olefins is also conducting their own investigation and says they intend to learn from the OSHA's reports. Williams Olefins employs about 4,700 workers throughout the United Statesl about 127 workers are stationed at the Geismar plant where the accident occurred. The plant specializes in the production of ethylene, propylene, and natural gas. These highly toxic chemicals should always be dealt with care and ultimate caution.


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