Carolyn Merritt, former chairman of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), died August 29 in St. Louis after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 61.

In a statement, current CSB Chairman John Bresland praised Merritt’s many accomplishments during her five-year tenure as chairman from August 2002 to August 2007.

“Carolyn believed passionately in the CSB’s mission,” said Bresland. “She worked tirelessly to save lives of workers and the public through chemical accident prevention, insisting on thorough investigations and meaningful safety recommendations.”

After the BP Texas City refinery explosion in 2005, Bresland said that Merritt pushed for increased corporate investment in chemical process safety. She also supported efforts for improved protections against combustible dust after fatal dust explosions in North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana occurred during her time on the board.

“She was outspoken in her belief, shared by all of us at the CSB, that accidents are preventable and workers should be safe on the job,” said Bresland.

And Merritt’s role as chairman helped breathe new life into the CSB. “Starting in 2002, she led a great renewal of the agency, establishing it as a highly respected institution in the field of chemical process safety,” said Bresland. “She greatly increased the CSB’s productivity and its impact on safety. She worked hard to recruit new staff and build bridges with colleagues worldwide.”