Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Statement from Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis
Proposed Penalties Against BP Products North America
Friday, October 30, 2009
Good morning everyone.
Thank you all for joining us on the call.
As you know, on March 23, 2005, an explosion and fire at the BP Products North America Texas City Refinery resulted in the death of 15 employees and injuries to 170 others.
The lives of those injured workers, and the families whose loved ones were lost in the accident, were forever changed.
Following the 2005 explosion, the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that BP had neglected to comply with critical safety rules.
At that point, we entered into a settlement agreement, under which BP:
- Committed to pay $21 million in fines; and
- Agreed to a number of other conditions to both control the safety problems at the plant and comply with the law.
Since 2005, OSHA has conducted 17 additional inspections at the Texas City Refinery.
Unfortunately, we have found that the company still has not addressed many critical safety issues that it had agreed to correct under the 2005 settlement.
And, our inspections have uncovered additional violations of important safety requirements that, if unaddressed, could lead to another catastrophe.
For those reasons, the Department of Labor is issuing more than $87 million in proposed penalties against BP:
- For 270 alleged failures to comply fully with the 2005 settlement agreement; and
- For 439 violations of safety and health standards.
This constitutes the largest fine that OSHA has ever proposed.
I want to briefly explain how the fines breakdown. We are issuing :
- $56.7 million in fines for the 270 failures to comply fully with the 2005 settlement agreement; and;
- $30.7 million for the 439 new willful citations the majority of which are related to deficiencies in pressure relief devices and systems.
Let me note here that the 2005 explosion was caused, in part, by a defective pressure relief system.
The citations allege that:
- BP still lacks important information about the hazards of its pressure vessels; and
- The company continues to lack clear operating procedures that could prevent another disastrous explosion.
These penalties are proportional to both the nature and scale of violations on BP's part and represent the Department of Labor's commitment to ensuring that all workers are provided with workplaces that are safe.
Let me be clear. This Administration will not tolerate disregard for our laws. Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to protect their workers, who ultimately are America's most important asset.
Our laws are designed specifically to level the playing field for all businesses and ensure that workers in any economic climate are kept out of harm's way.
I'm joined this morning by:
- Jordan Barab, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA;
- Richard Fairfax, OSHA's Director of Enforcement;
- Dean McDaniel, OSHA's Region 6 Administrator in Dallas, Texas; and
- Mike Rivera, OSHA's Area Director in Corpus Christi, Texas.
We all look forward to answering your questions.