A local worker group alleges that inadequate safety standards at Marathon Petroleum’s St. Paul Park refinery in Minnesota have caused avoidable hydrocarbon and chemical releases that pose a threat to the community.
The report by Local Jobs North, a union-backed organization, finds lax safety standards at the plant led to mistakes that could have ignited volatile hydrocarbons. It also cites inadequate installation of safety controls for pipe repair operations and use of poorly constructed scaffolding.
In a statement to Reuters, Marathon defended its procedures and commitment to safety.
“The safety of our employees, contractors, business partners, customers and the community is, and always will be, our No. 1 priority,” Marathon said, adding that “any suggestion that individuals who perform work at our refinery are not trained and qualified to do so is baseless.”
The report alleges Marathon eliminated dedicated safety positions and removed experienced maintenance contractors to save on costs after taking over the plant in 2018.
Despite a general improvement in safety metrics at U.S. refineries, there have been some incidents at these facilities in recent years that have killed and injured workers due to aging equipment and human error, often by untrained employees.
Marathon reported it selects contractors through a comprehensive evaluation process, that they receive training for specific roles and meet federal and state regulations, and that independent auditors vet contractor health and safety programs.
Workers from a local Teamsters union report they have been locked out of the 102,000-barrel-per-day plant since Jan. 21.