Happy Friday the 13th
TOP OF THE NEWS:
BP TO PAY $50.6 MILLION TO RESOLVE U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT LITIGATION… the highest fine ever issued by OSHA and paid by an employer.
“The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
Solis announced yesterday BP Products North America Inc. will pay the full penalty of $50.6 million in OSHA penalties stemming from the 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery that killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.
POCKET CHANGE: BP’s total profits in 2009: $14 billion.
The agreement resolves failure-to-abate citations issued after a 2009 follow-up investigation. In addition to paying the record fine, BP has agreed to take immediate steps to protect those now working at the refinery, allocating a minimum of $500 million to that effort.
Under the agreement, BP immediately begins performing safety reviews of the refinery equipment according to set schedules and make permanent corrections.
The agreement also provides what the Labor Department calls an “unprecedented” level of oversight of BP’s safety program including regular meetings with OSHA, frequent site inspections and the submission of quarterly reports for the agency’s review.
“Make no mistake, OSHA will be watching to ensure that BP complies with the agreement and safeguards its workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
In September 2005, OSHA cited BP for a then-record $21 million as a result of the fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery in March of that year. Upon issuance of the citations, the parties entered into an agreement that required the company to identify and to correct deficiencies. In a follow-up investigation in 2009, OSHA found that although the company made many changes related to safety, it failed to live up to several extremely important terms of that agreement. As a result, OSHA cited BP for “FAILURE TO ABATE” violations with penalties totaling a record $50.6 million that BP now has agreed to pay.
BUT BP AND OSHA ARE STILL HAGGLING…
During that same 2009 investigation at the Texas City refinery, OSHA also identified 439 NEW WILLFUL VIOLATIONS and assessed more than $30 million in penalties. Litigation before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission regarding those violations and penalties is ongoing and is not impacted by yesterday’s settlement.
In October 2009, OSHA announced $87.4 million in penalties against BP resulting from its inspection of the Texas City plant earlier that year. The $56.7 million penalty was levied for BP’s FAILURE TO ABATE the hazards behind the fatal 2005 explosion.
In November 2009, U.S. Department of Labor attorneys, in preparation for filing with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, discovered that the department inadvertently had assessed 29 duplicate “failure-to-abate” violations totaling $6.09 million. The penalty was therefore adjusted to $50.6 million.
In a statement issued yesterday by the company:
“BP contested the citations and maintains that the refinery has undertaken extensive actions to enhance worker safety since 2005 in full conformance with the 2005 agreement.
“BP and OSHA elected to focus on resolving 270 "Failure to Abate" citations which are the subject of this settlement. Both parties have agreed to settle these matters and focus on moving forward collaboratively in order to continue to improve plant safety.
“BP has a stated goal to become a leader in process safety and we look forward to working collaboratively with OSHA to achieve an injury-free workplace in our operations," said Iain Conn, BP's global head of refining & marketing,
“We have significantly improved the safety of our operations at Texas City over the last five years and are determined to carry this effort forward effectively in the future,” said Steve Cornell, head of BP's U.S. Refining business.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM
BP’s catastrophic Gulf oil spill and monumental public relations disaster. The largest-ever OSHA penalty paid by a company involves one beset by so much ill will its bargaining power was trumped by the need to settle and move on.
IN OTHER NEWS…
PPE COMPLIANCE WOES NEVER CEASE
Nearly all safety professionals in a survey released this week said that workers in their organizations had at some point failed to wear the necessary safety equipment while on the job.
Not exactly a shocker…
Ninety-eight percent of respondents who attended June’s American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) meeting in Baltimore answered “yes” when asked if they had observed workers not wearing safety equipment when they should have been, according to the survey, which was conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional.
Thirty percent said this had happened on numerous occasions.
Worker compliance with personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols was cited as the top workplace safety issue by all survey respondents.
In terms of compliance with PPE use protocols, eye protection was found to be the “most challenging” PPE category, according to 42 percent of respondents.
The next highest category for noncompliance was hearing protection. It was followed by gloves and head protection.
Reasons for PPE noncompliance were varied, but the biggest complaint was that it was “uncomfortable,” selected by 40 percent of respondents, followed by:
SOLVING THE PROBLEM:
When safety professionals were asked about their visions for the future of PPE, fit, comfort and style took precedence. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would like to see PPE that AUTOMATICALLY ADJUSTS To fit different body types, hands, heads, faces, etc.
Next was PPE with CUSTOMIZABLE STYLE AND DESIGN options, so that workers could select PPE based on their own individual tastes and safety requirements (32 percent). This was followed by PPE designed with INTEGRATED CLIMATE-CONTROL features, providing cooling or warmth as needed (15 percent).