Explosion at Houston Chemical Company Prompts Citations, Fines

OSHA has issued citations against Marcus Oil & Chemical Inc. of Houston for alleged violations of safety standards after an explosion and fire at the plant. The agency has proposed penalties totaling $107,250.

Marcus Oil & Chemical, which produces polyethylene waxes and light hydrocarbons, was cited for one alleged willful and 25 alleged serious violations following an inspection by OSHA's Houston South area office. The inspection, which began Dec. 3 as a result of the incident, found that employees were operating pressure vessels without adequate safety relief devices.

The alleged willful violation was for failing to develop and implement safety practices for the control of hazardous chemicals.

The alleged serious violations included failure to:

  • Provide adequate storage of compressed gas and oxygen cylinders and polyethylene waxes;
  • Repair or replace defective forklifts and ladders;
  • Correct electrical deficiencies; and
  • Provide storage space for fire extinguishers.

The company also violated the terms of OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard for highly hazardous chemicals by failing to conduct an initial process hazard analysis and compliance audit and develop written operating procedures, according to the agency.

"Employers must follow OSHA's safety standards in order to provide a healthful workplace for employees," said Chuck Williams, OSHA's area director in Houston. "Fortunately, in this case, no one was seriously injured."

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