BP BLOWS CONTINUE: Two refineries owned by oil giant BP account for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the refining industry by government safety inspectors over the past three years, a Center for Public Integrity analysis shows. Most of BP’s citations were classified as “egregious willful” by OSHA.
BIG PICTURE: “The only thing you can conclude is that BP has a serious, systemic safety problem in their company,” OSHA deputy Barab tells the Center.
OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels goes further, says safety problems aren’t limited to BP. “We are very concerned about the commitment of the refining industry to worker health and safety,” he said.
ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES: Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist with the United Steelworkers, tells the Center many of the problems in the industry caused by growing intervals between refinery “turnarounds,” when equipment is taken offline for cleaning, repair or replacement. Turnarounds were scheduled every two to three years. Now, as oil companies try to cut costs, it’s every three to five years.
INDUSTRY DEFENSE: Gregory Scott, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, defended the industry. “Safety is the highest priority at our member plants,” he told the Center.
FISH, FOWL AND RESPONSE WORKERS: From the publice health blog The Pump Handle – “extraordinary measures are being taken to protect vulnerable coastal and marine environments from the toxic fuel, the question arises:” Is the health and safety of workers being adequately protected?
As of May 12th there were approximately 27,500 people involved in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill response…13,000 civilian and military personnel and an additional 14, 500 volunteers. “Concern is real that in the rush to protect beaches, sensitive wetlands, and wildlife – and to contain the massive oil flow – health and safety of those on the front lines is receiving scant attention.”
MILLION-DOLLAR PENALTY: OSHA this week fined VT Halter Marine Inc. $1,322,000 for a November 2009 explosion and fire that killed two workers and injured two more.
WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTED: CSX Transportation faces $5,000 in punitive damages it must pay an employee after federal investigators say it took retaliatory action against him for repeatedly reporting safety concerns to his managers, the Federal Railroad Administration, and OSHA.
THE CULTURE THING: U.S. Sen. Harkin’s statement at the mine safety hearing on 5/20: Congress wants to know “how federal funding can best help create the culture of safety that we need to protect the nation’s miners.”
OSHA BOSS ON “MANUFACTURED UNCERTAINTY: USA Today article points out: “For four decades, the company Toyota commissioned to investigate allegations of unintended acceleration, Exponent, is part of a thriving industry of firms that do research and scientific and engineering analysis for hire and provide expert testimony for companies facing product disputes, government regulation and lawsuits. Critics claim Exponent will go to any length to get test results favoring its clients. David Michaels, head of OSHA and author ofDoubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, wrote that what Exponent "does best" in a lawsuit is "manufacture uncertainty.
IN THE LION’S DEN: OSHA’s Barab on 5/19 addresses the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association’s National Safety Conference in San Antonio, Texas. “The ringing in your ears an hour or two ago wasn't just the alarm clock by your bed. It was a wake-up call for everyone in your business.
”The headlines of refinery worker injuries and deaths on the job and of OSHA's stepped-up inspections are sounding an alarm about an industry-wide problem -- a problem that we are obliged to address.
”Bluntly speaking: Your workers are dying on the job and it has to stop.
“Three concepts that I believe can help you, as safety professionals, to save more workers' lives…
”First: Effective process safety programs and strong workplace health and safety culture are critical for success in preventing catastrophic events
”Second: This industry needs to learn from its mistakes. We know the major causes and we know the remedies. Systemic reform is needed now.
”Third -- and I'm not telling you anything you don't already know: Numbers don't tell the whole story. Focusing on low DART rates alone won't protect you from disaster. New metrics are needed.
“Stop boasting about your safety records when you're literally putting out fires. You're only undermining your credibility.
“Boasting about the great safety record of refinery industry while widows and children are planning funerals doesn't make you sound like a serious organization.”
HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND.