OSHA Findings Contested in Williams Olefins Explosion

January 27, 2014

Officials say Williams Olefins is contesting six workplace safety violations and $99,000 in civil penalties federal regulators proposed last month for a fatal explosion June 13 at the company’s Ascension Parish, La., plant.

The blast at Williams’ Geismar ethylene and propylene facility killed two and injured 114 after a flammable vapor cloud ignited from ruptured equipment in the company’s propylene fractionation unit, causing a massive fireball.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the company for six process safety management standard violations, including one willful.

OSHA says a willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with indifference to worker safety.

Diana Petterson, an OSHA spokeswoman, tells The Advocate Williams contested on Jan. 3 the citations outlining the violations.

“Additionally, whenever there are willful violations that result in a fatality, the Labor Department normally discusses the case with the U.S. Department of Justice,” she said.

OSHA is under the Department of Labor.

Walt Green, acting U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge, has said that he can neither confirm nor deny whether an investigation is underway.

According to OSHA’s Field Operations Manual, four of the six violations prompted the maximum penalties allowed under law, including the willful violation. It led to a $70,000 penalty.

But, under OSHA rules, Williams also still has the option to settle the violations.

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