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Published: Wednesday, 9/30/2009

Sunoco East Toledo plant hit with $147,000 fine

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Sunoco Inc. has been fined $147,000 for faulty maintenance procedures at its oil refinery in East Toledo after an incident April 6 in which a contract worker suffered minor injuries.

It is the second time this year that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited the firm for violating federal workplace safety laws.

"We're going to review the citations within the next 15 business days," said Olivia Summons, refinery spokesman. "If we disagree with any of the citations, we will exercise our right to contest them."

The firm is "committed to safe, reliable operations," she added.

OSHA announced the violations Wednesday. It cited the refinery for three violations, one classified as serious and two as willful, which is the second-most serious category of infraction.

Jule Hovi, area director at OSHA's Toledo office, said inspectors were sent to the plant after receiving a complaint about minor injuries suffered by an employee of an outside firm performing maintenance work at the refinery.

According to the citation, the worker was hit with gasoline that spurted out of a pipe.

OSHA alleged that the refinery failed to use properly engineered pipe clamps; to ensure pipe leaks were repaired properly; to repair or replace pipe valves; and to follow proper repair procedures.

"Injuries and fatalities from incidents at refineries are preventable," Ms. Hovi said in a written statement. "OSHA will not tolerate employers who ignore safety hazards that threaten the lives and well-being of their workers."

Sunoco continues to contest $25,000 in OSHA fines that followed an Oct. 2 cooling tower fire.

Also unresolved are $330,000 in citations issued last year that involved improper record-keeping and failure to correct problems dating back as long as six years.

The latter fine was part of an OSHA crackdown on safety violations at refineries that followed a 2005 explosion at a BP LLC refinery in Texas City, Texas that killed 15 people.

The federal safety agency fined BP's refinery in suburban Toledo $2.4 million in 2006 because of allegedly unsafe operations there. Also, last March a refinery in Lima, Ohio operated by Husky Energy Inc. was hit with $61,000 in fines.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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