I disagree with Ellen Silbergeld. The CSB is valuable for several reasons:
1. OSHA and EPA don’t look for root causes of incidents, only whether specific standards or regulations were violated. Thing like the effect of fatigue, the presence of reactive hazards, “new” hazards like combustible dust and general systemic failures are either ignored or not adequately addressed by the enforcement agencies.
2. The CSB provides a bit of oversight over EPA and OSHA, again looking for other causes of incidents that the agencies may have missed and adding other issues to the agency’s agenda. Many of the issues being considered now for OSHA’s PSM update come from CSB recommendations. They can also point out shortcoming in the agencies’ regulations or enforcement policies.
3. CSB is able to make recommendations to companies, industry associations, labor union and government agencies — again which go beyond OSHA or EPA regulations.
In conclusion, the CSB definitely provides added value — at least when it’s functioning properly. But the internal issues the agency is currently experiencing have little or nothing to do with the how the agency is functioning. Right now, you have the left-overs from the previous Chairs, the President’s continue efforts to eliminate the agency and now, the government shutdown.
With reference to Ellen Silbergeld comments: It is true that in 1998 the CSB was “about dead on arrival” giving the strong opposition from the Clinton administration, some in the chemical industry and OSHA and EPA on the grounds of being “unnecessary and duplicative”. The Trump administration used the same rational for trying twice (unsuccessfully) to de-fund the agency in 2017 1nd 2018.
But the CSB persisted and proved to be very effective and efficient (given the modest budget allocated). Twenty year later, it can show more than 160 major investigations with more than 800 recommendations adopted by stakeholders (including OSHA, EPA, CalOsha, ACS, API, NAFP, AIChE, BP, Chevron, Tesoro and dozens of others in the petrochemical industry). CSB complemented the investigative efforts of (by far) better funded federal regulatory agencies (OSHA and EPA)– that have not been able to conduct effective root cause investigations of mayor chemical catastrophes. The regulatory agencies investigation work is hamstrung by having always to refer to the current obsolete regulations on the books to make prevention recommendations. CSB work is not encumbered by current regulations.
The work of the agency has been recognized nationwide and internationally by the petrochemical industry and by the petrochemical workers as a “great value”. Of course we should support the institutional regulatory federal agencies but if the objective is to prevent catastrophic chemical fires and explosions, the CSB has a proven its sterling value as an effective agent of prevention. We certainly will not be “doing better” by suggesting non support to the CSB on the grounds that in 1998 it was almost but not quite “dead on arrival”.
In California, the CSB’s investigation of the 2012 Richmond, Chevron refinery vapor cloud explosion played a crucial role in the subsequent development of California’s groundbreaking, 10,000-word, 2017 Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations for refineries (GISO 5189.1).
CSB found that Chevron’s own engineers had warned the company on six different occasions about the problem of sulfidation corrosion in the plant’s crude unit, including warning of the possibility of a catastrophic failure that could cause loss of life. Chevron managers chose not to act on these warnings, and the crude unit failed in one of the locations the engineers said it would–and it did so catastrophically, endangering the lives of 19 workers and causing thousands of residents to seek medical attention.
The CSB’s findings led to strong new authorities in the 2017 PSM regulation for workers (nearly all USW-represented) to participate “throughout all phases” of PSM decision-making at each of the state’s refineries. See subsection (q) on page 24 of the attached. They also provided a more general foundation and rationale for drafting regulatory language that is meaningful, practice and enforceable, something the industry’s lobby, the Western State Petroleum Association, vigorously opposed.
Washington State will adopt a CA’s PSM regulation in 2019, and one of CA’s members of Congress, Mark DeSaulnier, introduced a December 2018 Resolution calling for a federal PSM standard that reflects the CA language.
In light of all this work, I guess it’s not a surprise that the CSB is under attack.
the chemical safety board was just about dead on arrival. Moreover, it was an end run about OSHA and NIOSH with their much deeper experience and resources in investigating health and injury risks in occupational settings.
We would do better to support these institutions
To equate safety in plants today with an time in the past is to recognize the changes that have taken place. First most manufacturing, especially by large companies operate under SAFETY FIRST. Not all manufacturing does, and manager do ignore the OSHA rules. Companies are run by people and some people are just bad and in some cases evil. The processes of 50 years ago are gone and replaced several times over, each time with improved worker safety. The changes reduced employment and increased efficiency. For example is automation keeping workers off the plant floor in a safe environment. Society moved from using steel, glass and paper to chemicals, mainly plastics. Plastics use much less energy to produce and improved cost performance. In 1960 the steel consumption per US citizen was around 1,000 pounds by 2000 steel consumption dropped to around 600 pounds per person. The population about doubled so total steel demand was flat. Plastic’s demand increased both in total and on a per capita basis.
There are a lot of factors that caused an increase in worker safety: cost, insurance, unions and government regulation. The government regulation that probably protects workers the most is OSHA. Dealing with OSHA is a pain and workers often do not like the rules. However, the safety of American workers is better due to OSHA. I believe in small government but I have also experienced working in a steel mill where bad safety practiced got you fired on the spot (45 years ago) and at a company where the head of R&D ignored safety (6 years ago), OSHA and because of his lack of leadership injured workers and imperiled others and the financial stability of the whole company.
We all remember the ignoring of safety by Massey Energy. Prison time for the executives (maybe not enough but some) and the company bankrupt. Leadership ignores safety at their own freedom and personal wealth!
It is management’s responsibility to ensure a safe work place.
I was confused about what happened long time ago, on my advice I wish CSB to take full investigation about this case and I wish it will resolve before it will take another year
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