USW Demands Safety Improvements at Tesoro

Accidents Expose Deficient Safety at Refineries

Contact: Gary Beevers (409) 838-1972          Kim Nibarger (412) 562-2587

PITTSBURGH – The United Steelworkers (USW) today demanded that management at Tesoro Corporation develop a comprehensive, cohesive safety program after an accident at the alkylation unit of its Golden Eagle refinery near Martinez, Cal., seriously injured two workers this month and applauded the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) for prohibiting the company from restarting the alkylation unit until management meets certain conditions.

“Tesoro management trivialized the extent of the workers’ injuries to establish jurisdictional defense specifically to avoid the scrutiny of U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and other agencies,” said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers, who heads the union’s oil sector. “Management’s platitudes about operating safely have been exposed, as constant downward pressure to produce continues to threaten workers, their communities and the environment.”

Operators told Cal/OSHA investigators they were afraid to operate the alkylation unit. They also related they signed “green sheets” with the notation “signed under duress” for procedure changes. Operators also reported Tesoro failed to conduct required management of organizational changes (MOOC) when they decided to reduce staffing for start-up and shutdown of the alkylation unit.

Further, the union criticized Tesoro for disputing a CSB report that cited deficient corporate-wide management culture of safety as a contributor to an explosion that killed seven workers in April of 2010 at its Anacortes, Wash. refinery.

“While the company continues to grow and its market share expands, Tesoro’s corporate culture of safety has steadily diminished,” Beevers said. “Management seeks to reduce the number of union safety positions and has proposed other staffing cuts, including the department where workers were injured last week.”

Beevers also pointed out that the company has withdrawn from the USW’s Triangle of Prevention program, which supported incident investigations, and stopped its quest for inclusion in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

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