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Chemical Maker and Other Firms Fined $139K After 6 Hurt in Fire

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OSHA cited Westlake Chemical and three other companies after the agency investigated the September 2021 flash fire and explosion.

Chemicals and plastic compounds manufacturer Westlake Chemical and three other companies were cited with 11 serious violations and fined for their role in a September 2021 flash fire and explosion at Westlake’s Sulphur, LA manufacturing site that left six workers with injuries, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Thursday. The four companies were fined a total of $139,427.

Westlake Chemical Lake Charles South received three serious citations and a proposed penalty of $30,454. Specialty turnaround services provider Turn2 Specialty Companies was cited for four serious violations and fined $58,008. Officials issued two serious violations and a fine of $26,104 to industrial repair service Leak Sealers Inc. Wastewater Specialties LLC, a chemical cleaning firm, faces a $24,862 penalty for two serious violations.

The violations include lack of safe work practices, confined space permit violations, confined space training, exposure to airborne concentrations of benzene, struck-by hazards, flash fire and explosions hazards, and failing to perform process equipment inspections.  

“Employers are responsible for ensuring employees have a safe workplace by having the correct confined space permits and a plan in place to inspect equipment to prevent serious injuries,” OSHA area director Roderic Chube in Baton Rouge, LA said in a statement. “Employers should also make sure that no employee is exposed to an airborne concentration of benzene in excess of the permissible exposure limits.”

During the investigation, OSHA learned that the flash fire and explosion occurred as preventative care and maintenance work was being carried out in the facility. While OSHA’s release this week mentions that six people were injured in the 2021 event, Nola.com said 23 workers have filed lawsuits against the company for broken bones, burns, and other injuries sustained in the fire and blast.

This January, Powder & Bulk Solids reported that a tank used to store ethylene dichloride exploded and caught on fire at Westlake’s Sulphur Site, injuring six workers. Homes, schools, and businesses near the facility were told to shelter-in-place as a precaution.

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