THE US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a new safety digest about the importance of worker participation to improve safety and prevent accidents.
In its investigations, the CSB found missed opportunities for workers to participate in process safety activities, and the digest details four investigations where the lack of worker participation either contributed to the incident or provided insight into how to improve practice.
An explosion at the Sierra Chemical Company Kean Canyon explosives manufacturing plant in Nevada in 1998 resulted in the deaths of four workers and injured six others. The CSB found that workers were not aware of operating procedures or of the specific hazards related to the materials. Reported problems were also not acted on, and the production of safety materials only in English was a significant barrier to the mostly-Spanish speaking workforce.
An explosion and fire occurred at the Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company’s refinery in Washington in 2010, killing seven people. Workers had previously noted near misses, resulting in the process hazard analysis team requesting a review of training, but this was never actioned.
The Chevron refinery in Richmond, California experienced a pipe failure in 2012 that released a vapour cloud that engulfed 19 employees and then ignited, but fortunately the employees escaped. The CSB recommended enhancing California’s state-specific process safety management regulations to address worker participation.
The Williams Olefins plant explosion in Geismar, Louisiana in 2013 killed two people and injured 150. The CSB found that Williams did not action items developed during process hazard analyses and had a weak process safety culture.
CSB Board member Rick Engler said: “Worker engagement is key to an effective process safety programme. After all, it’s employees who are so often in direct contact with the hazards – and have the experience and knowledge to help prevent them.”
The CSB recommends that employers take steps such as empowering workers to provide input on how the work is performed, enable workers to raise safety issues without fear of reprisal, and provide worker training opportunities. The full safety digest can be found here.
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