MFA Oil Co. Fined Following Worker Death

July 8, 2005

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued citations to MFA Oil Company of Columbia, Mo., and proposed penalties totaling $135,000 for alleged failure to protect workers from fire and explosion exposure. The citations follow the inspection of a fatal explosion Jan. 7 at the company’s bulk storage plant in Marshall.

OSHA’s citations against MFA alleged two willful and two serious violations of safety standards. According to OSHA Regional Administrator Charles Adkins CIH, a transport driver was off-loading unleaded gasoline into a 12,000 gallon above-ground storage tank when the tank ruptured, causing a loss of contents with subsequent fire and explosion. The transport driver suffered fatal burns over 90 percent of his body.

One willful citation alleged the company exposed workers to hazards by not having the tank vehicle off-loading area separated from above-ground storage tanks that contained flammable liquids.

The second willful violation concerned failure to conduct inspections and maintenance of the tank pressure vent/overfill alarm and emergency vent. Inspections of the pressure vent/overfill alarm and emergency vent are required to ensure they are unobstructed and operational during loading/off-loading operations, and especially during freezing weather conditions due to icing. Obstruction of pressure vents can lead to tank structural damage, resulting in product spill, personal injury, property damage, fire and explosion.

Use of valves and fittings constructed of low melting materials without protection from fire exposure, and lack of an emergency response plan comprise the alleged violations for which OSHA issued the serious citations.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. Serious violations occur when there is probability of death or serious physical harm and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

MFA Oil Company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply with them, request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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