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AR Plant Fined $122K for Chemical Risks

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

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Great Lakes Chemical Corp., a leading global producer of flame retardants and other construction chemicals, is facing 18 serious federal safety violations and a $122,000 fine for risking “uncontrolled releases” at the world’s largest bromine plant.

A highly corrosive, volatile element found in liquid form, bromine is the basis for many widely used chemical compounds, including flame retardants. The Great Lakes facility in El Dorado, AR, is the world’s largest bromine plant and produces other chemicals as well.

 Great Lakes Chemical

 Photo: Great Lakes Chemical

The 18 serious violations related to hazards at the company’s bromine and alkyl lead plant in El Dorado, AR.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the citations after an inspection in December under the agency’s Process Safety Management (PSM) National Emphasis Program, which targets hazards related to the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals.

Great Lakes Chemical (also known as Great Lakes Solutions) is a division of Chemtura Corp., one of three bromine suppliers recently dubbed “deeply unethical” by lawmakers in 10 states. That characterization was contained in a letter June 4 by the lawmakers to the American Chemical Council, urging expulsion of the companies from the trade group for their practices.

Violations

The new OSHA citations are related mainly to PSM violations and fall protection hazards. The PSM violations include failure to:

• Ensure that the process hazard analysis addresses hazards related to closed or blocked valves;

• Develop procedures to correctly establish levels for pressure vessels and piping; and

• Ensure that the compliance audit addresses procedures to assess the mechanical integrity of pressure vessels and piping.

The citations say that the company’s PSM plan does not address any previous incidents at the plant “that had the likely potential for catastrophic consequences in the workplace.” The documents cite a bromine release in 2005, due to the use of inappropriate lining material; corrosion damage to some I-beams in one unit; and a ruptured unloading hose on a railcar.

The citations also allege lack of a shut-off system in the chlorine rail-car unloading system, pressure vessels that do not meet standards, failure to address human error in the bromine unit, and inadequate equipment inspections.

Potential for ‘Uncontrolled Releases’

“By failing to ensure that safeguards are in place, Great Lakes Chemical puts its workers at risk of exposure to bromine, a highly hazardous chemical that can cause severe burns to the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory system,” said Carlos Reynolds, OSHA’s area director in Little Rock.

 Creative Commons / W. Oelen

 Creative Commons / W. Oelen

Fire retardants make up more than half of the world’s consumption of bromine, a corrosive, toxic chemical.

The hazards also “exposed employees to the hazards associated with uncontrolled releases of ammonia, chlorine, sulfur dioxide and/or bromine into the atmosphere,” OSHA documents say.

Reynolds said, “Process safety management procedures must be followed to prevent the unexpected release of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals.”

The company is also accused of multiple instances of failing to put railings around ladder-way platform openings.

All of the violations were classified as serious, reflecting “substantial probability” of death or serious injury from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

About the Company

Great Lakes Chemical is a chemical research, production, sales and distribution company that produces specialty chemicals used for polymers, fire suppressants, flame retardants, and other applications.

The company employs about 4,000 workers nationwide, including about 270 at the El Dorado plant.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

   

Tagged categories: Chemical Plants; Construction; Construction chemicals; Health and safety; OSHA

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