Union Carbide Corp. on Tuesday appealed all 221 citations that federal regulators have filed against it and called claims that its Institute, W.Va., plant is unsafe “grossly distorted.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on April 1 levied a record $1.37-million fine against Union Carbide. Inspectors said that 130 of the citations against the Institute facility were for “willful violations” of federal law.
U.S. Labor Secretary William E. Brock III also accused Union Carbide of using its employees to “detect the presence of deadly gas by sniffing the air after alarms indicated a leak.”
Tuesday was the last day that the troubled chemical company could appeal the fines, which were assessed after OSHA investigators completed a wall-to-wall inspection of five of the plant’s 18 units. No date has been set for inspecting the remainder of the facility.
Says Rules Were Switched
“We feel the allegations have grossly distorted the actual safety conditions at the plant,” said Union Carbide spokesman Tom Sprick. He said the company still maintains that OSHA changed its rules during the inspection and cited the company for actions not previously considered violations.
Of the 130 “willful violations” specified, 129 were for alleged failure to record work-related illnesses and injuries on official OSHA forms. Not reporting such injuries enabled Carbide to dodge safety inspections, OSHA claimed.
Institute plant manager Rudy Shomo has said that all injuries were recorded on in-house logs and that OSHA’s contention that the injuries had to be reported to the agency conflicts with federal law.
“We didn’t think they would protest all 221 (citations),” OSHA spokeswoman Chriss Winston said in Washington. “We certainly stand behind our violations, and believe they were based on fact after the most extensive evaluation of a chemical plant ever.”
An administrative law judge from Washington or from OSHA’s Northeast region will hear the case first, Winston said.
The plant inspection followed an Aug. 11 leakage of toxic chemicals that sent 135 people to the hospital.