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Oklahoma refinery faces $281,000 in fines after fatal blast in 2012

Operators of an Oklahoma refinery repeatedly violated workplace safety rules, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday. Wynnewood Refining Co. faces $281,000 in fines.
by Phillip O'Connor Published: April 5, 2013

— The operators of a southern Oklahoma refinery repeatedly broke workplace safety rules and now face $281,000 in fines following a boiler explosion last year that killed two workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced.

Many of the most serious citations involve repeated violations surrounding the engineering and hazardous use of a large boiler that exploded at the Wynnewood Refining Co. on Sept. 28, killing operators Billy Smith, 34, and Russell Mann, 45.

The company had been cited for many of the same violations following another boiler explosion in 2008.

“Failure to implement effectively OSHA's process safety management regulations, which protects employees from potential hazards at high-risk facilities ... will not be tolerated,” said David Bates, director of the agency's Oklahoma City-area office, which conducted the investigation. “If OSHA's standards had been followed, it is possible this tragedy could have been avoided.”

The September explosion caused some in the Garvin County town of about 2,500 residents to voice concerns about the refinery's new owner, a lax culture of safety and whether some of the 265 or so workers were reluctant to complain for fear of losing their good-paying jobs or seeing the 90-year-old refinery that serves as the town's lifeblood close.

The company has 15 business days to comply with or contest the citations.

A spokeswoman for CVR Energy Inc., the Sugar Land, Texas-based company that owns the Wynnewood refinery, issued a news release that said the company is reviewing OSHA's findings and working to address the agency's concerns.

The company statement noted that many of OSHA's findings were consistent with an internal investigation the company shared with OSHA in December that identified the cause of the explosion as a combination of human error and inconsistencies in procedures and training.

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by Phillip O'Connor
Enterprise Editor
O'Connor joined the Oklahoman staff in June, 2012 after working at The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a combined 28 years. O'Connor, an Oklahoma City resident, is a graduate of Kansas State University. He has written frequently...
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