July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am #2195
The Lens: Deadly Workplaces Escaping Close Scrutiny
Reported by: Ariella Cohen, The Lens
Last Update: 7/11 4:16 pm
Workplace deaths raise questions about OSHA experiment in self-regulation
[color=#0000ff size=2]Critics of the federal government’s Voluntary Protection Program say that fatal accidents should not be tolerated at these so-called models for workplace safety. (Andy Cook/ The Lens )
In January 2002, a mound of powdery chemical catalyst used to make gasoline collapsed on a worker doing routine cleanup at the Marathon Ashland Petroleum refinery in Garyville, La.
Within minutes, the contract employee, from Colfax, was completely engulfed in the toxic chemical and struggling to get free. Before help arrived, the face seal on the man’s helmet broke, allowing fresh air to hit the catalyst and ignite. “Employee #1 was killed as a result of chemical burns,” reads the Occupational Safety and Health Administration report on the death, which was tagged a “housekeeping” issue. The incident report ends with no violations listed and no penalties imposed.
Marathon, which would experience another fatal accident in 2007 and again in 2009, has been considered by the federal government to be one of the country’s safest places to work for nearly two decades, one of 2,434 across the country certified by OSHA as a Voluntary Protection Program site.
That status makes the refinery part of an elite group of businesses that serve as ambassadors between industry and the agency’s safety inspectors. In exchange for professing a commitment to safety and carrying that message to private-sector peers, program members get a three-to-five-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections and a friendlier relationship with the feds, not to
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