Wyoming OSHA fines Sinclair $155,000 for May 8 refinery fire

2012-10-09T06:00:00Z 2013-08-31T00:55:37Z Wyoming OSHA fines Sinclair $155,000 for May 8 refinery fireBy ADAM VOGE Star-Tribune energy reporter Casper Star-Tribune Online

The Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a $155,000 fine to Sinclair Oil for a May 8 “flash fire catastrophe” which burned four employees, three severely, at the company’s refinery near Rawlins.

The agency cited Sinclair for 11 violations — three of which were deemed repeat violations — stemming from a refinery investigation. The other eight violations were labeled serious.

Citations include failure to properly train employees, failure to address hazards in a hazard analysis and lack of required adopted written procedures for certain refinery procedures.

The agency will also require the company to hire an independent safety contractor to conduct a safety audit of the refinery and develop a start-up procedure during turnarounds at each unit. Sinclair management is required to meet with OSHA every two weeks during the process.

“The safety of employees is a moral and legal responsibility that all employers must uphold,” Director of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Joan Evans said in a statement Monday. “The OSHA investigation following the May 8 incident found hazards that likely factored into the catastrophe ... It is Sinclair’s critical obligation that every day, employees return home safely to their families.”

The agency specifically proposed a $35,000 fine for failure to address administrative and engineering controls in a hazard analysis risks associated with a caustic wash tank; $35,000 for failure to allow employees enough time to vent caustic gas; and $35,000 more for not ensuring all employees working with the tank had proper training. All three were repeat violations.

The company also failed to clearly define work practices associated with caustic draining, an investigation showed. OSHA cited the company for several other serious violations, including employees using a pipe wrench instead of a valve wrench to open a valve from the caustic wash tank and failure to train employees in how to protect themselves while venting the tank.

The agency investigation also showed that the company hadn’t adopted written procedures for venting gas from the caustic wash tank --worth three different citations — and that employees had insufficient access to portable eyewash units and emergency showers, which had also gone uninspected. Employees had also defaced or removed labels from two 55-gallon barrels without replacing the tags.

The serious but non-repeat violations add up to $50,000 in fines.

A Sinclair spokesman said in a statement Monday that it “respects” the agency’s finding, and that it’s already taken several steps to make the refinery safer, including enhanced inspections, improved safety equipment and the “addition of critical safety personnel.”

“The owners and employees of Sinclair are saddened when any worker is injured,” the company said. “We sincerely regret this incident and have endeavored to provide the best medical care available to these individuals.”

The May 8 fire at the refinery near Rawlins was the first of two that month. A May 25 fire at the same facility injured two. OSHA later fined the company $60,250 for 12 violations uncovered in a separate investigation.

Two more fires in August — both at the facility near Rawlins — burned one employee, although company officials said he was quickly treated and released from the hospital.

Sinclair has 15 business days to appeal the fines. The company said in its statement that it will meet with OSHA in the “near future” to “discuss the citations.”

Company spokesman Clint Ensign responded to a message seeking further comment, saying the company will “examine the proposed citations” with OSHA, but did not elaborate.

Reach energy reporter Adam Voge at 307-266-0561, or at adam.voge@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom or follow him on Twitter @vogeCST.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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