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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 http://www.osha.gov.
November 6, 1991
Donna Clayton Norris
P.O. Box 1013
Seabrook, Texas 77586
Dear Ms. Norris:
Thank you for your letter of October 14, 1991, regarding the settlement of the OSHA citations issued against Phillips 66 Company. The Department of Labor values your comments and criticism greatly, since workers are most immediately affected by the agency's enforcement policies in the occupational safety and health area.
The OSHA citations issued to Phillips 66 as a consequence of the October 29, 1989 explosion remain a landmark in the agency's enforcement history. At the time the Phillips citations were issued, they proposed the largest penalty for violations at a single workplace in the history of the OSH Act. When the Phillips settlement was announced, it also represented the largest monetary settlement in OSHA's history. The abatement program required by the settlement agreement is comprehensive, and will assure that OSHA reviews process safety audits conducted by Phillips for several years to come. In addition, Phillips will be required to implement identical process safety management programs at all its corporate facilities, with equivalent arrangements for intensive OSHA monitoring. Finally, of course, settlement of this case assures that safety and health protections for plant workers are implemented immediately, rather than at the conclusion of lengthy litigation.
In entering into this settlement, OSHA also considered the impact that such a substantial settlement would have upon the chemical industry nationwide. Settlements of this magnitude send a clear message to the chemical industry to get its house in order. OSHA's upcoming standard on process safety management, due to be published early next year, will re-emphasize that message, and help to ensure that these tragic accidents do not occur in the future.
The Department of Labor has historically considered reductions in penalties, and in the characterization of violations, in conducting settlement negotiations. Where the settlement assures prompt protection of workers, and achieves OSHA's primary goal of protecting the maximum number of workers, the agency believes that its limited resources are better spent on other, less cooperative employers. OSHA believes that the substance of the Phillips settlement agreement, and its final penalty amount, speak loudly and clearly that the agency will not tolerate any less than a full commitment to worker safety and health.
Cynthia L. Attwood
Associate Solicitor for Occupational Safety and Health