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Citations for deadly oil refinery explosion affirmed

Posted On: Mar. 29, 2019 12:40 PM CST

oil refinery explosion

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on Thursday affirmed 12 citations against an Oklahoma oil refinery after an explosion killed two workers in 2012.

The incident stems from alleged unsafe practices at a Wynnewood, Oklahoma, refinery run by Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC after workers improperly started a boiler, resulting in an explosion that immediately killed one worker and another 28 days after the incident, according to documents in Secretary of Labor v. Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC, filed in Washington, D.C.

Following an inspection, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the refinery for 12 violations of various provisions of OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard. Eleven of these violations involve the steam boiler at the refinery and four of those violations were characterized as repeat, according to documents. The 12th citation alleged a repeat process safety management violation related to the company’s alleged failure to develop and implement safe work practices, according to documents. 

At a hearing, an administrative law judge affirmed all 12 violations as serious — but not all repeat, as cited — and assessed a total penalty of $58,000 for them. In its petition for review, Wynnewood contended that the “boiler-related items should be vacated because the PSM standard does not apply to the boiler,” according to documents. The Secretary of Labor also requested a review, claiming that the violations were repeat despite that the previous violations occurred when the refinery was under another corporate entity prior to a company acquisition.

The review commission affirmed the judge’s ruling in a partial, split decision, with one commission dissenting over the issue of whether some of the violations were repeat — which the commission affirmed weren’t.

At issue is the purchase of the business, previously known as Wynnewood Inc., prior to the incident and whether the refinery maintained the same safety personnel and supervisors, in which the dissenting judge wrote that the refinery has and, therefore, led to the instances of repeat violations. “The record shows that most of Wynnewood LLC’s supervisors, PSM managers, and safety officials responsible for OSH Act compliance held the same or similar positions for Wynnewood Inc.”

The companies and attorneys involved could not immediately be reached for comment.