Contractor Fined in Wake of Chemtool Fire

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A subcontractor is contesting a nearly $10,000 fine by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration for its alleged role in a June 2021 fire that destroyed Lubrizol’s Chemtool grease factory in Rockton, Illinois.

OSHA issued a $9,957 fine against Holian Insulation Co., of Spring Grove, Illinois, on Dec. 13, and the company contested the action on Jan. 11. The case could take months to resolve.

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The six-alarm blaze that began June 14 destroyed the facility, which was one of the world’s largest grease production plants. OSHA’s description of how the event began was consistent with that given by local firefighting officials shortly after it happened. A summary of the file on Jolian said its employees were operating a scissors lift when the lift struck a pressure tap on a pipe returning hot oil to a grease cooking kettle. That resulted in an oil leak that triggered the fire, the file states.

OSHA cited Jolian for not maintaining proper overhead clearance during operation of the lift. Jolian officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The fire caused an evacuation of nearby neighborhoods, and residents have filed several lawsuits against Lubrizol, claiming that it did not ensure safe operation of the plant and seeking compensation for damages that they claim to have incurred.

Illinois and the local government have filed a joint lawsuit fining Chemtool and seeking reimbursement for costs of the fire, including clean-up. Lubrizol officials have said that the company is cooperating fully with officials.

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