A settlement may be in the offing between the state and Morton Thiokol in the Dec. 29 fire that killed five workers and destroyed an MX missile-casting building.

Officials for the Utah Division of Occupational Safety and Health and Morton Thiokol are apparently discussing a possible settlement to charges the aerospace company willfully violated state safety procedures that contributed to the fiery explosion at the company's rocket-manufacturing plant 25 miles west of Brigham CityMorton Thiokol has vehemently objected to the state agency's charges and has vowed to challenge them and $31,700 in accompanying penalties.

The agency said the men should not have been in the building when a core was being drawn from the solid fuel. Safety procedures established after an incident in May 1987 directed workers to withdraw cores from missile castings by remote control, monitoring the procedure with television cameras.

The company contends that if rules and procedures had been followed no one would have been hurt.

Recent posturing may prove unnecessary, however.

Don Anderson, UOSH compliance supervisor, said both sides appear open to the idea of settlement. Anderson further fueled speculation that a compromise may be in the works when the said the Utah attorney general's office is extending the deadline for Morton Thiokol to file a response to the state's claim of violations.

The company originally had 30 calendar days to appeal the citations and penalties to the Utah OSHA Review Commission an independent review board set up to hear citation appeals.

Morton Thiokol officials would not comment on the likelihood of the settlement.

The state recently proposed fines against Morton Thiokol for three "willful and serious" violations of state standards; "seriously" violating two others, and violating a third one that was unrelated to the MX missile motor fire. Three other citations for less severe infractions were also issued.

Should negotiations between the two sides stall, the matter will be turned over to a review commission for a decision.

"Whether we have a hearing depends on what we can agree on," said UOSH Administrator Doug McVey.