U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso spoke of "a growing crisis of safety in the oil sector."

Steelworkers See Pattern in Oil Industry Incidents

At a conference preparing for national oil bargaining in 2012, union Vice President Gary Beevers described a mentality of running equipment until it fails and delaying turnarounds.

Saying the oil industry's "run to failure" mentality is growing worse, United Steelworkers Vice President Gary Beevers said the industry needs to return to shorter periods between turnarounds, the times when refineries shut down for maintenance. Beevers also said the union will fight to include enforceable health and safety language in the next national oil contract it negotiates in 2012. He spoke at the union's 2010 National Oil Bargaining Conference. Held Sept. 14-16 at a Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport hotel, it brought together delegates from union locals with members working in the industry.

"We can't accept the attitude that upsets are bound to happen because of the hazardous nature of the refining process," said Beevers, who leads the union's oil sector. "If refiners paid greater attention to safety instead of production and reinvested more of their profits into their infrastructure instead of buying back their stock, there would be fewer preventable accidents."

The new chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, Rafael Moure-Eraso, also spoke at the conference. "We see a growing crisis of safety in the oil sector," he said, referring to Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as well as explosions and fires at onshore production, processing, and refining facilities. Moure-Eraso said operators have told him turnarounds that usually occur every two to three years are now happening every four to five years. Companies should strengthen their mechanical integrity programs to find problems before releases occur, he said.

"The industry says it's managing the risk, but in most instances it's based too narrowly on an individual plant's history, and that creates a false perspective of the risk involved," said Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist with the union's health, safety and environment department. "It's 'Throw a patch on the line and we'll fix it during the next turnaround,' " Nibarger said.

The union has 850,000 members in North America who work metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining, atomic energy, and the service sector. Among them are 30,000 members working in the oil industry.

Product Showcase

  • Matrix's OmniPro Vision AI Collision Avoidance System

    OmniPro Vision AI is a state-of-the-art collision avoidance system that features NIOSH award-winning Visual Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. This highly accurate, powerful system identifies and alerts on pedestrians, vehicles and specified objects, ensuring safer facilities, mining operations and industrial sites. With its web-based cloud application, OmniPro Vision AI also logs and analyzes a wide range of data related to zone breach notifications. Operating without needing personal wearable devices or tags, OmniPro has visual and audible zone breach alerts for both operators and pedestrians. 3

  • The MGC Simple Plus

    The MGC Simple Plus is a simple-to-use, portable multi gas detector that runs continuously for three years without being recharged or routinely calibrated after its initial charge and calibration during manufacturing. The detector reliably tests a worksite’s atmosphere for hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen and combustible gases (LEL). Its durability enables the detector to withstand the harshest treatment and environments, hence earning it an IP 68 rating. The MGC Simple Plus is also compatible with a variety of accessories, such as the GCT External Pump. Visit gascliptech.com for more information. 3

  • Kestrel 5400 Heat Stress Tracker WBGT Monitoring for Workplace Safety

    Ensure safety with the Kestrel® 5400 Heat Stress Tracker, the go-to choice for safety professionals and endorsed by the Heat Safety & Performance Coalition. This robust, waterless WBGT meter is ideal for both indoor and outdoor environments, offering advanced monitoring and data logging essential for OSHA compliance. It features pre-programmed ACGIH guidelines and alert settings to quickly signal critical conditions. Integrated with the cloud-based Ambient Weather Network, the 5400 allows managers to view, track, and log job site conditions remotely, ensuring constant awareness of potential hazards. Its capability for real-time mobile alerts and remote data access promotes proactive safety management and workplace protection, solidifying its role as a crucial tool in industrial hygiene. 3

Featured