The need for a strong process safety management program – and how to appropriately implement and execute such a program – was recently demonstrated in Louisiana, where one company was cited by a federal agency.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on September 20, 2012, that it had cited Westlake Vinyls Co. LP in Geismar for 10 serious safety and health violations, most of which stemmed from OSHA's process safety management standards.
Total proposed penalties amount to $67,000.
"This company exposed its employees to avoidable workplace hazards that can cause serious injury and possible death," said Jack Turner, OSHA's area acting director in Baton Rouge. "OSHA's safety and health standards must be followed to prevent accidents and illnesses."
The citations were issued after OSHA's Baton Rouge Area Office performed an inspection as part of its national program to enforce process safety management standards written specifically for chemical facilities. The inspection uncovered that employees who were performing operations at the plant were exposed to process equipment that had potentially been overpressurized.
The investigation led to a total of 10 serious violations, which include "failing to provide accurate process safety information for piping and instrument diagrams, use the appropriate detection methodologies in the process hazard analysis and properly complete emergency shutdown procedures, repair or maintain pressure-relieving devices and conduct management of change while maintaining process equipment."
Westlake Vinyls, a subsidiary of Houston's Westlake Chemical Corp., employs about 138 workers at the facility, which produces vinyl chloride monomer and polyvinyl chloride. The company now has 15 business days to comply with the standards.
OSHA's process safety management deals with the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in facilities that deal with volatile chemicals. To help create safe workplaces, OSHA created the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard.
OSHA's broader process safety management addresses standards for the general and construction industries. Complying with these standards can ensure asset uptime, keeping productivity high.
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