OSHA hits Philly refinery with violations

U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said on Friday that Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) will be facing $132,600 in fines for violations relating to process safety management. 

Inquirer.com reported that process safety management is a procedure which employers must follow with equipment and processes that involve a large number of hazardous chemicals. The violation included failing to establish and implement written procedures and inadequate inspection of equipment, and insufficient hazard analysis. 

It was reported that PES was cited for 10 specific violations. 

The violations include failure to inspect an elbow in a pipe that had been corroded since it was installed 46 years ago. The eight-inch-diameter pipe subsequently burst on Jun. 21 releasing a cloud of flammable gas that triggered three explosions and launched chunks of shrapnel into the air. 

“When employers fail to evaluate and address potential hazardous conditions associated with chemical processes, catastrophic events such as this can occur,” OSHA Philadelphia Area Director Theresa Downs said in a statement to Inqurier.com. “OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard requires that employers conduct regular inspections to ensure process equipment meets industry standards.”

It was reported that the June explosion released over 5,000 pounds of deadly hydrofluoric acid, leading to the refinery’s closure and bankruptcy. The incident did not cause any serious injuries. However, five workers did suffer minor injuries requiring first-aid attention. 

PES declared bankruptcy and shut down after the incident. They are undergoing a Chapter 11 reorganization. 

On Friday, the refinery’s law firm held a closed-door auction for potential bidders. The property is 1,300 acres and is located in South Philly. It has been used as a refinery since the 19th century. 

To confirm the bankruptcy plan, courts have set a Feb. 6 hearing. 

It was reported that PES cooperated with investigations conducted by countless government entities and private entities. Some who have investigated besides OSHA include the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Philadelphia Fire Marshal, the Philadelphia Police Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. 

PES was given 15 business days to take care of the OSHA citation, which was dated Dec. 19. 

On Thursday, PES asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Gross to approve the hiring of the Klehr Harrison law firm to represent the employees connected to the investigation.


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