A September 2012 explosion at a refinery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, killed two workers. - Screencapture Via KOCO

A September 2012 explosion at a refinery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, killed two workers.

Screencapture Via KOCO

Occupational Safety and Health Administration citations against an Oklahoma oil refinery after an explosion that killed two workers in 2012 were affirmed Tuesday by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

OSHA cited Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC with repeat, serious and other-than-serious violations following the death of two workers at the company's crude oil refinery in Wynnewood. The court ruling affirmed all violations as serious but not all repeat as cited.

A total penalty of $58,000 was assessed by the court.  

OSHA's Oklahoma City Area Office began its investigation Sept. 29, 2012, at the South Powell Street facility following the explosion of a boiler, which killed the employees. The inspection was expanded to include associated contractors and ongoing maintenance activities during a turnaround operation. OSHA investigators found violations of the process safety management standard, which requires specific management of hazards associated with processes using dangerous chemicals.

"Failure to implement effectively OSHA's process safety management regulations, which protects employees from potential hazards at high-risk facilities, such as petrochemical refineries, will not be tolerated," said David Bates, OSHA's area director in Oklahoma City. "If OSHA's standards had been followed, it is possible this tragedy could have been avoided."

The six repeat citations were cited for failing to ensure that boiler equipment complied with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices; ensure operating procedures addressed consequences of deviation from operating limits, including steps to avoid deviation from operating limits; provide training at least every three years on the practice of igniting boiler burners; establish and implement written procedures for testing and inspecting the shutdown and gas train interlocks for the boiler; and implement a management of change procedure when modifying boiler operating procedures. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Similar violations were cited in 2008.

The 12 serious citations include failing to ensure the process safety information includes equipment design codes and standards; failing to ensure the process hazard analysis addressed purging the boiler burner firebox; and loss of burner pilot/flame, prolonged fuel gas flow and failing to develop and implement operating procedures that address initial start-up of the boiler burner. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The two other-than-serious violations include failing to ensure boiler lockout procedures included a statement of intended use and ensure a second level storage area was designed, constructed and marked with its maximum intended load. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Because of the hazards and the violations cited regarding the accident investigation, Wynnewood Refining has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

OSHA originally proposed penalties totaling $281,100.

Wynnewood Refining Co., a subsidiary of Sugar Land, Texas-based CVR Energy Inc., employs about 265 workers in Wynnewood. The company has 15 business days from receipt of citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Oklahoma City office, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321- OSHA (6742) or the agency's Oklahoma City Area Office at 405-278-9560.

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.