OSHA cites West fertilizer plant for 24 safety violations

Proposed fines total more than $118,000

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter
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WASHINGTON - Operators of the West Fertilizer Company plant have been hit with a long list of safety violations stemming from the April 17 explosion that killed 15 people.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found 24 serious violations at the plant for "exposing workers to fire/explosion hazards of Ammonium Nitrate (AN) and chemical  burns and inhalation hazards from anhydrous ammonia (NH3) storage and servicing."

According to Sen. Boxer, other violations involve "unsafe handling and storage of anhydrous ammonia, unsafe handling and storage of ammonium nitrate, missing data plate and labeling of NH3 storage tanks, failing to pressure test replacement hoses, inadequate relief valves, failing to install back pressure check valves, lack of barrier protection at NH3 piping and valves for vehicle traffic, failing to have an emergency response plan, failing to have a respiratory protection program, failing to have an energy control program, failing to evaluate for permit required confined spaces, failure to have appropriate fire extinguishers, fork lift operators were not trained or certified, and failing to have a hazard communication program."

Proposed penalties for these violations total $118,300 in fines.

Sen. Boxer said she had to relay this information because the government shutdown has temporarily halted OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board operations.

Federal investigators have still not determined what caused the fire and explosion at the plant.

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