Because of its high-risk nature, companies that work with flammable petroleum gas must take health and safety regulations very seriously. Unfortunately, that has proven not to be the case for the nation's largest propane company.
An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the company, AmeriGas Propane LP, in violation of eight serious and repeated safety violations at its Southington, Conn. terminal for deficiencies in its Process Safety Management (PSM) program.
In an effort to help companies assess and address the specific hazards of working with these potentially dangerous materials, OSHA mandates PSM programs for employers who work with more than 10,000 pounds of flammable liquids. AmeriGas employees at the Southington terminal regularly transfer flammable, liquefied petroleum gas from railcars into 30,000 and 60,000-gallon storage tanks— that's up to 252,000 pounds of flammable liquids.
While it had a PSM program in place, AmeriGas failed to implement it, not inspecting or establishing mechanical integrity procedures for six storage tanks at its Southington, Conn. site. The company also failed to properly inspect and test its underground piping system and failed to ensure accurate piping and instrument diagrams. Also cited in 2013 for similar hazards at its Conroe, Texas facility, AmeriGas now faces both serious and repeated citations and fines totaling $135,000.
"An effective PSM program inspects and tests process equipment— it's not a paper exercise or a simple punch list," said Warren Simpson, OSHA's area director in Hartford. "Regardless of industry, processes covered by this standard must be addressed adequately to avoid a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals. Some of the deficiencies found in Southington are similar to those cited at another AmeriGas location. This is disturbing. The company must step up to correct and prevent recurring hazards at all its workplaces."
Headquartered in King of Prussia, Penn., AmeriGas serves more than 2 million residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and motor fuel locations in the U.S.
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