Texas Marathon Petroleum Corp May be in Hot Water Again



Austin Personal Injury Lawyers

Austin Personal Injury Lawyers - Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP

Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) June 30, 2015 – Ten years ago a deadly explosion ripped through Marathon Petroleum Corp’s major refinery. Flash-forward to 2015 and there are allegations that safety precautions put in place a decade ago are being discontinued.

Currently, several former employees and seven current workers at that location have filed a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in relation to how workplaces are reporting illnesses and injuries. The workers chose to file a complaint as they feel Marathon is about to disregard voluntary safety practices put into play after the 2005 explosion. BP sold the BP Texas City refinery in 2013 to Marathon for $2.4 billion.

Volatile hydrocarbon vapors coming into contact with a spark of a nearby idling diesel engine triggered the 2005 explosion. The horrific blast injured 180 and seriously harmed many others. Most deaths were the result of blunt force trauma as flying debris from wooden trailers parked on site hit workers. Those trailers were banned and put outside the work area. According to workers, trailers similar to the ones that existed in 2005 are being allowed back onsite and so are diesel trucks – a known hazard in refinery work areas.

“A little history is important when discussing safety at Marathon Petroleum Corp,” said respected Austin personal injury attorney, Brooks Schuelke of Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP. “In March 2005, a major explosion killed 15 at the Galveston Bay Refinery. At that time, BP Plc owned the facility. People are likely to recall that the Galveston Bay Refinery was the location of the worst U.S. refining accident in the last three decades.”

It is not uncommon for the OSHA to be conducting inspections at any one of the 142 refineries across the United States. An investigation does not necessarily mean the refinery being inspected is guilty of some form of wrongdoing. “Apparently one of the other main issues now is that since Marathon took over, injured workers report to an onsite physician, are screened for drug use, given ice packs, treated with a pain killer and told to go home,” indicated Schuelke.

Waiting for drug test results at home is not counted as lost time for an injury, something that would need to be reported to OSHA. Thus a worker cannot come back to the workplace until test results are available and the time off at home is not counted as a day away from work. Additionally, workers are asserting that even though the company says that workers are empowered to stop work they consider to be unsafe, that the stop work authority lies mostly with managers. Allegedly, Marathon is also writing variances to their own safety policies.

The laundry list of current complaints filed with the OSHA against Marathon is concerning not so much for its departures from safety procedures but for its apparent subtle erosion of protections for workers. While it looks like one thing on the surface, it may in fact be the start of a decline in worker protections that could lead to another disaster down the road.

“Workers in a situation like this are welcome to speak to my office about any injuries that may concern them. We have many years experience in standing up for the rights of injured workers. My door is open to you,” said Schuelke.

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