According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the West Fertilizer Company is guilty of 24 serious safety violations in connection with the April fire and explosion at its Texas facility. The accident claimed 15 lives and injured more than 200 people.
Since the U.S. government shutdown has blocked regular communication channels, the news reached the media via a press conference held by Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat serving as chairman of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, Chemistry World Magazine reported.
OSHA accused the Texas plant of dangerous storage of ammonium nitrate and exposing workers to the danger of chemical burns, as well as inhalation hazards from anhydrous ammonia. Among the specific safety violations listed by the agency were unsafe handling and storage of ammonium nitrate and ammonia, inadequate labeling of ammonia storage tanks and failure to pressure-test replacement hoses. The plant was also found to lack an emergency response plan or a respiratory protection program.
It was only a matter a time before a serious accident occurred, Boxer said, noting that the facility was last inspected by the OSHA in 1985. The proposed fine amounts to $118,300 although other agencies investigating the explosion may come up with their own penalties, the senator added.
The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) concluded in July that ammonium nitrate was responsible for the accident. But the CSB investigation has been put on hold as a result of the government shutdown.