The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Philadelphia Energy Solutions for serious violations of safety and health hazards related to process safety management (PSM) in a fire and subsequent explosions at the company's Girard Point Refinery Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June 2019.
The company faces $132,600 in penalties, an OSHA press release states.
PSM regulations encompass requirements and procedures employers must follow to address hazards associated with processes and equipment that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals. In this case, the chemicals were hydrofluoric acid and flammable hydrocarbons.
Development of PSM was the direct outgrowth of the 2005 BP refinery explosion and fire in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others. The subsequent investigation identified numerous technical and organizational failings that contributed to the emergency.
OSHA’s inspection found deficiencies in the PES refinery's PSM program, including failing to establish or implement written procedures, insufficient hazard analysis and inadequate inspection of process equipment for highly hazardous chemicals used in the process.
“When employers fail to evaluate and address potential hazardous conditions associated with chemical processes, catastrophic events such as this can occur,” said OSHA Philadelphia Area Director Theresa Downs. “OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard requires that employers conduct regular inspections to ensure process equipment meets industry standards.”
OSHA’s Process Safety Management webpage provides resources on recognizing, evaluating and controlling process hazards.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance.
PES shut down plant operations immediately after the fire. The month following the disaster it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and has been in the process of being sold since November. Final formal bids were submitted Jan. 10.