USW Joins Call for Changes at CSB

USW joined 21 other organizations, including labor, environmental, community and scientific groups, to send a letter to the chair of the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) last month with recommendations on how the agency can better fulfill its mission.

The group, which included the AFL-CIO and the BlueGreen Alliance, outlined 21 specific ways in which the CSB, without increasing its current budget of $12 million, could better achieve its goal of preventing future workplace incidents.

The CSB suffered from major operating issues in recent years as a result of unfilled positions on the board and insufficient staff. Consequently, its backlog of investigations keeps growing and needed recommendations have been delayed.

An independent, non-regulatory agency, the CSB’s mission is to investigate the root causes of major chemical releases, issue reports and recommend actions to prevent future incidents. During its 22-year tenure, the board’s investigations and recommendations led to significant safety improvements, such as revised national codes prohibiting the use of flammable gases to clean piping.

“Today, however, CSB needs to rebuild its investigative and recommendations capacity; set clear priorities for agency action; reform its governance policies, and increase public transparency and engagement,” said the coalition letter.

The groups outlined 15 problems and 21 actions that CSB could take within its current budget, including performing an accounting of its current record-breaking backlog of cases and making public its plan for completing the investigations.

Other recommendations included a staff recruitment, training and retention plan to address CSB job vacancies and ensure timely investigations, for the board to rely less on company-supplied information in its investigations, for the board to be more transparent and open in its meetings and in the information it shares with the public, and for the board to prioritize the reform of risk management and process safety management.

 “The CSB has a long history of doing important work,” said USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Steve Sallman, “but in order to keep that work alive, there must be significant changes.”

President Biden earlier this year put forward nominees to fill three of the four vacant CSB board positions: Sylvia Johnson, Steve Owens and Jennifer Sass.

The three nominees testified July 29 before a Senate subcommittee on chemical safety, waste management, environmental justice and regulatory oversight, but the Senate has to vote to hold a confirmation vote.

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222