Last week, the Cliffside Helium Enrichment Unit in Amarillo, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, was found to have violated safe-handling processes at its site.
In its report, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration stated that this was the first time it has invoked its egregious violation policy in citing unsafe conditions at a federal facility.
Richard Packer, BLM Communications representative, released a statement in response to the OSHA report.
"The Bureau of Land Management puts a premium on safety and worked to address the concerns raised by OSHA at the helium plant," the statement reads. "Last summer, production at the plant was shut down for over three months to address safety-related operational protocols and bolster training. An interdisciplinary team continues to monitor operations to ensure our workers and the environment are protected. We will share that work with OSHA and are reviewing the findings in today’s report to determine what if any additional steps need to be taken."
In all, OSHA cited 21 notices of unsafe working conditions related to the Cliffside Plant's handling of chemicals.
The penalty for these violations in the private sector for failure to comply with OSHA standards would carry hefty monetary penalties, but since it is under a federal agency, it is not subject to these types of fines.
OSHA stated that it found five willful violations for failure to perform inspections and tests on process equipment. The report also states that OSHA found six safety violations that included failing to train workers to understand the purpose and function of the energy control program.
“OSHA found the Bureau of Land Management’s Cliffside Helium Enrichment Unit willfully and repeatedly failed to take required safety measures to ensure the facility’s compliance with federal safety and health procedures and protect employees from chemical production hazards,” said Heath Douglas Parker, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.
According to OSHA, the BLM has 15 business days from receipt of its notices to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or appeal the notices.
Editor's Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Amarillo Globe-News: Bureau of Land Management responds to OSHA violations at Cliffside Helium Plant