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OSHA to fine Mississippi Phosphates following death of two workers

27 November 2012

The US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Mississippi Phosphates Corp. with 40 safety and health violations following the deaths of two workers at its Pascagoula plant. The citations for the serious and repeat violations carry total proposed penalties of $165,900.

Two staff workers were killed by flying debris after two separate over-pressurisation incidents in May and June of this year. Both workers had been attempting to start up steam turbines in sulfuric acid plants on the site.

OSHA has cited the company for three serious safety violations, including exposing workers to "struck-by" hazards by not protecting them against over-pressurisation and failing to maintain and service equipment in accordance with the company's maintenance programme.

An additional 23 serious safety violations included failing to test and inspect pressure relief devices throughout the facility and address engineering controls during a process hazard analysis.

Ten serious health violations involve failing to conduct an initial process hazard analysis, update the process hazard analysis every 5 years, conduct compliance audits for process safety management and determine the presence of asbestos prior to working on equipment, as well as to label hazardous substances such as caustic soda, acid and petroleum products that are used throughout the facility. 

According to OSHA, a serious violation exists 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.

One repeat health violation has been cited for a lack of housekeeping. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last 5 years. A similar violation was cited in May 2009.

"Employers need to be proactive to ensure that all operating equipment is properly maintained and functional," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's Jackson Area Office. "Had this employer done so, these tragic events could have been prevented."

The company said it had cooperated fully with OSHA, which conducted a broad, site-wide inspection over several months. Following the accidents, the company voluntarily shut down its facility for more than two weeks, closely examining - and improving wherever possible - its safety and training procedures.

"The company is undertaking a comprehensive review of OSHA's report and will expeditiously address OSHA's recommendations for improving the safety of our workplace," company Vice President of Operations Richard Johnson said after the citations were announced. 

"We are committed to continuously improving our safety and health programs to protect our employees and the surrounding community."

Mississippi Phosphates' Pascagoula facility produces diammonium phosphate, which is used as a fertiliser. The company's manufacturing facilities consist of two sulfuric acid plants, a phosphoric acid plant and diammonium phosphate granulation plant.

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