The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the largest fine in its history of $87 million in penalties against the oil giant BP for failing to correct safety problems identified after a 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers at its Texas City, Tex. refinery.
The fine is more than four times the size of any previous OSHA sanction. Federal officials said the penalty was the result of BP’s failure to comply in hundreds of instances with a 2005 agreement to fix safety hazards at the refinery, the nation’s third-largest.
OSHA issued 271 notifications to BP for failing to correct hazards at the Texas City refinery over the four-year period since the explosion. As a result, OSHA, which is part of the Labor Department, is issuing fines of $56.7 million. In addition, OSHA also identified 439 “willful and egregious” violations of industry-accepted safety controls at the refinery. Those violations will lead to $30.7 million in additional fines
BP says that since the explosion it has spent more than $1 billion to upgrade production and improve safety at the refinery.
A series of investigations attributed the March 23, 2005, explosion to overzealous cost-cutting on safety, undue production pressures, antiquated equipment and fatigued employees — some who worked 12 hours a day for 29 straight days.
The explosion was caused by a broken gauge and flammable hydrocarbons that were overflowing from an octane processing tower, which lacked a flare system to burn off volatile vapors. Those escaping vapors were ignited by the backfire of a nearby truck.
In addition to killing 15 people, the explosion injured 170 workers and obliterated 13 employee trailers and damaged 13 others, some as far as 300 yards away. The Texas City facility is capable of refining 475,000 barrels of crude a day and is located on a 1,200-acre site some 35 miles southeast of Houston.
In the 30 years before the 2005 explosion, there were 23 deaths at the Texas City refinery.
Six months after the explosion, BP entered into a settlement with OSHA in which it agreed to pay a $21.3 million fine, then the largest in OSHA history.
The previously highest fine was an $11.5 million penalty ordered in 1991 against the Angus Chemical Company and IMC Fertilizer Group, operators of a Louisiana fertilizer plant where an explosion killed eight workers and injured 120.
BP has already pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the explosion and agreed to pay $50 million, the largest criminal fine ever assessed against a company for Clean Air Act violations. Those violations included failing to maintain the safe startup of processing units and the mechanical integrity of the refinery
Since the explosion, BP has settled more than 4,000 civil claims, paid from a $2.1 billion fund it set aside to resolve claims.
If you or a family member has been injured because of the fault of someone else; by negligence, personal injury, slip and fall, car accident, medical malpractice, trucking accident, drunk driving, dangerous drugs, bad product, toxic injury etc then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Wrongful Death Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.