OSHA hands out penalties for Texas fertilizer blast

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said she thinks the fines need to be tougher.

She added that the violations should show the necessity for the government shutdown to end and let chemical safety officials get back to work.

“I think that this explosion should wake some people up,” she said on Thursday, noting that most workers at OSHA have been furloughed, as have staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency and, as of Friday morning, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “If there’s another explosion they’ll try to gear up but we’ve got to open the door and let the people have their government back.”

Boxer told reporters about the OSHA actions because, as she said, “the usual normal channels for you to get information are not there” because of the shutdown.

This week, the head of the Chemical Safety Board, which has suspended its investigation of the Texas blast, said that the agency would have “no ability to respond” to another chemical disaster, if one should occur. 

The April explosion was linked to ammonium nitrate, and the fertilizer facility was cited for unsafe handling and storage of the chemical. OSHA also charged the plant with failing to have an emergency response plan or respiratory protection program, having too few fire extinguishers and lack of protections for some pipes and valves, among other violations.