The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reached agreement with Formosa Plastics Corporation, Illiopolis, Ill., resolving citations issued following an investigation into an April 23, 2004 explosion that took the lives of five workers, seriously injured three others and destroyed much of the facility.
“This agreement offers an increased level of protection as Formosa rebuilds, and allows working men and women the opportunity to become real partners in workplace safety,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Michael Connors, Chicago. “I’m pleased that these advances can be made immediately instead of waiting for months or longer for litigation to be completed. Further, it is doubtful we could have made this kind of progress solely by litigating the matter, and I’m confident this is the best outcome possible for Formosa’s employees.”
Among key elements in the settlement are Formosa’s agreement to employ at least one independent, qualified consultant with expertise in chemical process safety management to work with design engineers on a new Formosa facility and to work with software engineers to reduce the possibility of human error at a new plant now under consideration by the company. Many of OSHA’s citations issued after the investigation reportedly centered around process safety management deficiencies.
The company further agreed to retain a process safety management specialist to assist with training Formosa workers on safety at a new plant. Formosa will also conduct audits at its other polyvinyl chloride manufacturing facilities to determine if hazards similar to those identified by OSHA in Illiopolis exist elsewhere. The audits will be performed by persons outside the facility being audited.
In return, OSHA has reduced the original penalty of $361,500 to $300,000; changed seven of 43 serious citations to other-than-serious; and reclassified willful citations to unclassified. Changing citation classifications has no bearing on any other related litigation that might arise. Formosa Plastics has also withdrawn its Notice of Contest before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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