The federal Department of Labor intends to fine a Marathon Petroleum Corp. subsidiary and a West Virginia company tens of thousands of dollars each for failing to follow safety procedures and other violations at the MarkWest Houston natural gas processing plant, where a fire injured four workers – one of whom later died of his injuries – late last year.
The agency said Tuesday that inspections by its Occupational Safety and Health Administration the day after the Dec. 13 fire turned up purported violations that led officials to propose fines of more than $51,000 against Bridgeport, W.Va.-based Energy Transportation and more than $47,000 against MW Logistics, which operates the Chartiers Township plant for Marathon.
Jeffrey Fisher, 61, of Salem, W.Va., died in a Pittsburgh hospital less than a week after he and three fellow employees of Energy Transportation LLC were hospitalized with burns after an explosion occurred while they were cleaning lines and vessels at the MarkWest plant.
Records show flammable vapors escaped while they worked at the de-ethanizer pad, where static electricity, various trucks that were running with hot heater coils on some of them, heater exhaust, a hot water pipe on one of the trucks and a nearby air heater could have ignited them.
The companies – which are both identified in OSHA records as being nonunion – have 15 days from the citations’ June 6 issuance to decide whether to pay or contest the penalties.
“It was just a one-off job that we were doing up there that we were contracted to do,” said Andria Alvarez Wymer, director of strategic initiatives for Energy Transportation.
She wouldn’t discuss the substance of the citations, but said the company had worked with OSHA in the investigation and made unspecified improvements to its procedures.
She went on to describe her employer as having a “great safety culture.”
“Whatever comes down from OSHA, we’re going to continue to grow our safety culture within our organization,” she said.
OSHA officials accused the company of violating various portions of federal labor law, including by failing to ensure all its employees followed safety procedures and knew about hazards, and by failing to provide them a workplace free of hazards that could cause death or serious injury.
Citations documents say alleged violations by MW Logistics include not establishing written safety procedures for cleaning equipment and failing to inspect energy control procedures at the facility at least every year.
Marathon’s company MPLX became the owner of the plant in Chartiers when it acquired MarkWest in 2015.
“Protecting the health and safety of workers and the communities where we operate is our highest priority,” Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry said in an email, “and we have been, and continue, working cooperatively with our contractor, as well as federal, state and local agencies to investigate the incident at our Houston, Pennsylvania, facility last December.”