The Nevada rocket fuel component manufacturer that recently announced plans to relocate in southern Utah has been cited for 30 violations of safety and health laws.
An official of Pacific Engineering and Production Co. has said the company will appeal the citations from the Nevada Division of Health and Safety, which carry fines of $36,455.PEPCON has been charged with willful, serious and less-than-serious violations of safety laws before the May 4 explosion that destroyed the company's Henderson, Nev., plant.
One of only two manufacturers of ammonium perchlorate, a solid rocket fuel oxidizer, PEPCON announced plans Wednesday to move part of its operation to a remote site 15 miles northwest of Cedar City.
Utah officials have said they are confident that the new plant will be safe and have downplayed any concern that there could be a repeat of the earthquake-force blast, which killed two workers, injured more than 350 others and caused $73 million in damage.
The reason for that attitude may be that two major Utah employers, Morton Thiokol and Hercules, have both warned that unless PEPCON is back in production by the first of the year, layoffs will be imminent. Ammonium perchlorate is considered vital to the nation's space and defense programs.
The official cause of the blast has not been determined, although a Clark County Fire Department report blamed it on welders operating in violation of safety guidelines. Company officials have said they do not agree with that assessment.
Nevada law prohibits officials from commenting on the citations, which charge four willful violations, nine serious violations and 17 less-than-serious violations.
The willful violation counts involve:
-Lack of manufacturing controls and standard operating procedures that caused employee exposure to and increased the likelihood of fire and explosion.
-Lack of emergency evacuation and response procedures for workers in the event of an accident.
-Lack of adequate confined space-entry procedures that exposed workers to potentially hazardous levels of toxic chemicals, suffocation and death.
-Lack of access to respirators by maintenance workers.
Fred Gibson, PEPCON'S president and chief executive officer, said late Thursday that the company will appeal the citations.
"We believe all of these citations are wholly without merit," Gibson said. "We believe they are unsubstantiated violations that have not yet been proven. It is our understanding that they were based on interviews that occurred after the accident."
Meanwhile, former employees of PEPCON's Henderson plant heard this week that they will have first crack at the jobs in the new Utah facility.
The plant is expected to employ 70 workers intitially and expand to a work force of 150. At least 15 employees are expected to transfer from Nevada.
The members of Steelworkers Local 4856 in Henderson may have to accept wages lower than the $12 to $16 they are earning now.
PEPCON officials said in Salt Lake City earlier this week that they will pay wages in line with Iron County salaries. They also said they have not determined whether the plant will be unionized.