Chemical Safety Board Recommendations Fail to Address Overall Safety of Refinery, Community

Kim Nibarger, USW Health & Safety, o) 412-562-2587, c) 412-418-6240
Lynne Baker, USW Communications, o) 615-831-6782, c) 615-828-6169

Pittsburgh— The United Steelworkers Union issued the following statement on the U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s recommendations concerning the July 19, 2009 explosion and fire at the CITGO refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas:

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) recommendations only addressed the safety mitigation system and not how there are safer alkylation catalysts available, such as solid-acid catalysts, that would prevent the need for such systems. We would have liked to have heard an urgent recommendation to have a test slip stream done to compare the HF process to the solid-acid catalyst. A slip stream allows for an alternative catalyst to be run at the same time as the HF system and is affordable. The inherently safer technology is here; it just has to be used.

Third-party audits should be done at all refineries that use the HF catalyst. The CSB recommended that third-party audits should be done as recommended by the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Recommended Practice 751. The problem with the API recommended practices is that there are no teeth in them. They say what oil companies should do, not what they must do. The companies are free to ignore the advice.

Information regarding the audit results and planned actions should be shared with all workers, not just those whose work area includes the alkylation unit. HF threatens all the workers in a refinery if it is released. In addition, the Process Safety Management Standard does not say that sharing information is sufficient; it says to consult with workers. This means getting their input on a problem or situation.

The USW questions why the CSB did not confer with the union on the proposed recommendations. The CSB never discussed the validity of the recommendations or whether the workers had any suggestions they would like to see put into place. It is our understanding that the investigators had discussions with the company regarding the recommendations, but had no dialogue with the union. We do not feel the CSB is meeting its charter by not discussing the proposed recommendations with the union as well as the company.

We hope the final report addresses the overall safety of the refinery, similar to the BP Texas City report where the board told BP to examine the safety management systems in all its US refineries.

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.,

To read the CSB Issues Urgent Recommendations to CITGO, click here.

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