Former CSB Chair Carolyn Merritt Mourned

Carolyn Merritt, who was chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, died Aug. 29 in St. Louis, Mo., the current CSB chairman, John Bresland, announced in a statement distributed by CSB staff. "With great sadness, I learned of the death yesterday of Carolyn Merritt, who served as chairman of the Chemical Safety Board from August 2002 until August 2007," it said. "Carolyn died in St. Louis on the afternoon of August 29 after a long and characteristically tough fight against metastatic breast cancer. Her husband and her family were at her side. She was 61."

"All of us at the CSB are mourning the loss of this wonderful woman," the statement said. "Carolyn was ideally suited to the role of CSB Chairman when she was appointed by the president in 2002. Prior to becoming the chairman, Carolyn had served for many years in executive roles in major corporations with responsibility for health, safety, and environmental issues. But she brought more than her experience and expertise to the agency. Carolyn believed passionately in the CSB’s mission. She worked tirelessly to save lives of workers and the public through chemical accident prevention, insisting on thorough investigations and meaningful safety recommendations.

"Following the tragic refinery explosion in Texas City in 2005, Carolyn became a crusader for greater corporate investment in chemical process safety and elevated the term 'safety culture' into company boardrooms around the world. She was outspoken in her belief, shared by all of us at the CSB, that accidents are preventable and workers should be safe on the job. Carolyn embraced the need for greater protections against combustible dust, having witnessed first-hand the terrible destruction from fatal dust explosions in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana during her years on the board.  She was the principal source and interview in a 2006 CBS News '60 Minutes' story on our BP Texas City Refinery investigation, and appeared just this year -- while fighting her cancer -- in a '60 Minutes' story on the hazards of combustible dust and the explosion at a sugar refinery in Savannah, Georgia. She conducted hundreds of interviews and gave countless speeches in pursuit of the CSB mission. "Starting in 2002, she led a great renewal of the agency, establishing it as a highly respected institution in the field of chemical process safety.  She greatly increased the CSB’s productivity and its impact on safety.  She worked hard to recruit new staff and build bridges with colleagues worldwide. We cannot find words to express our thanks for everything she accomplished.  All of us at the CSB send our sincere wishes of sympathy to Carolyn’s husband, family, and friends.

"Carolyn told her family she hoped her death would not be mourned, but that friends and colleagues would celebrate what she sought to accomplish during her life. Consistent with her wishes, no funeral is planned. However, the family encourages friends and colleagues to place remembrances on the website www.caringbridge.com/visit/carolynwmerritt. Information concerning where Carolyn wished donations to be made in her name may be found there as well. You may also share reminiscences by sending an email to [email protected]."

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