OSHA cites Williams Olefins for safety violations after deadly explosion

Zachary C. Green
Zachary C. Green
Scott Thrower
Scott Thrower

GEISMAR, LA (WAFB) - Williams Olefins LLC in Geismar was cited for six process safety management standard violations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after an explosion in June killed two workers and injured 80 people. The company was also given a proposed fine of $99,000.

Of those, 80 were injured and one man died at the time of the blast. The man who died the day of the explosion was 29-year-old Zachary C. Green of Hammond, LA. He was found in the plant by the Louisiana State Police Haz-Mat team after the fire.

Louisiana State Police say Scott Thrower, 47, from St. Amant passed away the following day.

The explosion and fire happened at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, LA at 8:37 a.m. on June 13, 2013. Louisiana State Police said the fire was put out around 2 p.m.

"Williams Olefins violated safety and health standards which, when followed, can protect workers from hazardous chemicals," said Dorinda Folse, OSHA's area director in Baton Rouge. "It is the employer's responsibility to find and fix workplace safety violations and to ensure the safety of its workers. Failing to do so cost two workers their lives."

A willful violation was cited for failing to develop clear, written procedures for how to change and put idle pressure vessels into service. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The five serious violations include inadvertently mixing hot quench water with propylene; failing to provide appropriate pressure protection for a pressure vessel; complete a process hazard analysis to address the opening of hot quench water flow into a pressure vessel; properly document workplace training; and promptly correct deficiencies related to process safety management discovered by an internal compliance audit team. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Williams Olefins is a subsidiary of Williams Partners LP, which is headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., and employs about 4,700 workers corporatewide. The Geismar location employs about 127 workers and specializes in the production of natural gas, ethylene and propylene.

Proposed penalties total $99,000. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's Baton Rouge area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Williams Geismar Olefins Plant Comments on OSHA Findings:

  • Williams confirms receipt of findings from OSHA following OSHA's investigation into June 13, 2013 incident at Williams' Geismar Olefins Plant
  • Williams is carefully reviewing OSHA's analysis and findings
  • Williams is continuing its own internal incident investigation and is committed to further enhancing its safety performance
  • The company is executing on a plan to rebuild, turnaround and expand the Geismar Olefins plant by April 2014

TULSA, Okla. – Williams Olefins LLC, today announced that it has received the investigation findings from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") related to OSHA's investigation of the June 13, 2013 incident at Williams' Geismar facility. Company officials are reviewing OSHA's findings.

"Williams cooperated in a full and transparent manner to support OSHA's investigation, and we are in the process of reviewing the analysis," said John Dearborn, senior vice president, NGL and Petchem Services.

"In addition to conducting our own internal incident investigation, we are committed to learning from OSHA's report to further enhance safety at the Geismar plant and across our organization."

The company noted that prior to the June 13, 2013 incident, the Geismar Olefins plant achieved an exceptional and long-standing safety record with no lost-time accidents having occurred at the plant since 2009.

"Safety and the protection of employees and communities in which Williams does business is, and always has been, our number one priority," Dearborn continued. "We are committed to safely completing the rebuild and expansion work now underway, and to bringing the expanded plant into safe and reliable operations for the benefit of the plant's employees, contractors, the community and customers."

Williams Olefins LLC is now executing on a plan to rebuild, turnaround and expand the Geismar Olefins plant by April, 2014.