OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

February 12, 1991

The Honorable John W. Warner
United States Senator
490 World Trade Center
Norfolk, Virginia 23510

Dear Senator Warner:

This is in further response to your letter dated November 29, 1990, on behalf of your constituent, Mr. J.B. Lankes. Mr. Lankes requested information concerning an investigation conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the Houston Chemical Complex in Houston, Texas, where OSHA proposed more than 500 violations against Phillips Petroleum with a proposed penalty of $5,700,000.

After an explosion and fire on October 23, 1989, OSHA initiated an investigation to determine the cause of the accident that killed 23 workers and injured over 130 others at the Phillips 66 Company's petrochemical plant, located at Pasadena, Texas.

At the conclusion of the investigation (April 19, 1990), OSHA issued 566 willful and 9 serious violations with a combined total proposed penalty of $5,666,200 to Phillips 66 Company and 181 willful and 12 serious violations with a combined total proposed penalty of $729,600 to Fish Engineering and Construction, Inc., a maintenance contractor on the site. Both employers filed a timely "Notice of Contest" before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in order to present their positions as to why alleged citations and/or proposed penalty(s) should not have been issued/assessed. The hearing is still pending at this time.

We are not allowed to release information from the case file until the citations and proposed penalties become a final order. We can, however, provide copies of the citations, our news release (which contains a brief description of the cause of the explosion and fire as well as the nature of the violations), and our report to the President entitled, The Phillips 66 Company Houston Chemical Complex Explosion and Fire, for your use in responding to your constituent. A copy is enclosed, as requested.

If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us again.


Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary