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Another Serious Refinery Fire Prompts USW to Renew Call for Better Process Safety
Fri Apr 16, 2010 3:30 pm ET
PITTSBURGH, PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The United Steelworkers (USW) said today that Wednesday’s fire at ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge, La., refinery that injured one employee and two contractors demonstrates the urgency of the union’s call for greater attention to process safety within the refining sector. This incident follows less than two weeks after the deadly Tesoro refinery explosion in Anacortes, Wash.
“We are concerned about this latest incident because there are too many fires happening at refineries around the country,” said USW Vice President Gary Beevers. “We are closely monitoring the condition of two of the workers who have not been released yet from the hospital. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those involved and their families.”
At 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, USW Local 13-12 member Robert McNaylor was working on a gas compressor. He was following a standard procedure for inspection of the internal parts when the fire occurred. He received second and third degree burns to his face, neck, hands, forearms and upper chest. He is now in Baton Rouge General Hospital’s burn unit.
Two contractors were also injured. One had minor burns on his face while the other received severe burns. Both were taken to the hospital; one was discharged Wednesday afternoon.
The cause of the incident is unknown at this time. There was also a secondary explosion that occurred during a gas test on the equipment affected. The gas tester, a supervisor, was knocked off his feet, but was not injured.
The USW sent one of its health and safety investigators to look into the incident. OSHA is also at the plant doing a preliminary investigation and interviewing workers. Its investigators requested that they be present during repair of the equipment damaged in the fire, but ExxonMobil has refused their request.
The union found out about the accident because one of its members was a first responder. ExxonMobil did not notify the union about the incident or of OSHA’s arrival.
Instead of focusing on process safety, ExxonMobil bases its health and safety program on a behavior-based approach called Loss Prevention System. This approach is based on shifting attention away from unsafe equipment and hazardous conditions to a focus on workers and working safely around the hazards.
Local 13-12 has requested that ExxonMobil implement the 18 essential actions described in the union’s 2007 report,
Beyond Texas City: The State of Process Safety in the Unionized U.S. Oil Refining Industry (http://assets.usw.org/our_union/oil_bargaining/beyondtexascity.pdf).
The local also requested that the company implement the union’s Triangle of Prevention (TOP) program jointly with the union. This program involves workers in health and safety investigations of near-miss incidents and accidents so that the root causes can be found and the lessons learned applied in order to avoid future incidents. ExxonMobil refused to take either action.
“ExxonMobil needs to learn from the explosion and fire that happened in March 2005 at BP’s Texas City refinery,” said Beevers. “The management there was so concerned with individual safety that it ignored the problems brewing in the refinery. The end result was an explosion and fire that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others.”
The USW is the largest industrial union in North America and has 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers employed in metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy and the service sector.
Contact: Lynne Baker, USW Communications, o) 615-831-6782, c) 615-828-6169
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)