It’s Always Something: Dispatches from the front lines of the battle for workplace safety

Black Lung is Back: After almost being eradicated in the late 1990, black lung is back, with a vengeance. Epidemiologists at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say they’ve identified the largest cluster of advanced black lung disease ever reported, according to an NPR story.  “When I first implemented this clinic back in 1990, you…

Trump’s Worker Safety & Health Budget Again Undermines Worker Safety & Health

Earlier this week, President Trump submitted his Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal. This is his second budget proposal, and like the first, although it left OSHA’s budget fairly flat, it once again proposes to slash or eliminate important safety and health programs and agencies.  And this is Trump’s second OSHA budget that has been proposed…

Chemical Release Caused by Workers’ Mistakes? CSB Says No.

Seems like no matter how well a government report describes, some reporters persist in blaming workers’ “mistakes” and “gaffes” for chemical releases and other incidents. Last week, the Chemical Safety Board released a final report on a major chemical release at MGPI Processing Inc., in Atchison Kansas in October 2016,  due to the inadvertent mixing…

Arkema Update: Chemical Plants and Climate Change

More information is coming out about the chemical releases at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby Texas following last summer’s flooding in the Houston area as a result of Hurricane Harvey. To refresh your memory, rising floodwaters disabled the plant’s power supply, the emergency generators and finally the cooling mechanisms in temporary truck storage, allowing…

CSB Withdraws Deepwater Horizon Worker Participation Recommendations

In a 3-1 vote, the Chemical Safety Board voted yesterday to withdraw recommendations calling for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) to strengthen worker participation requirements and to take measures to prohibit retaliation against workers who use their rights.  Chair Vanessa Sutherland, joined by members Manny Ehrlich and Kristen Kulinowski voted to rescind the recommendations despite…

Deepwater Horizon: Is the CSB Preparing to Retreat on Worker Participation?

The Chemical Safety Board may be preparing to take a significant step backwards in its advocacy for worker participation in preventing chemical facility incidents, including catastrophes like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In April, 2016 the CSB unanimously approved a 4-volume “Macondo Investigation Report” in response to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon blowout that killed 11…

Hurricanes and the Chemical Industry: Houston Chronicle Explores the Hazards We’re Facing

The New York Times discussed yesterday how prepared the chemical industry is for natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Today the Houston Chronicle picks up on that theme today, focusing on the other end of that problem — how the hundreds of chemical facilities in the Gulf that shut down in response to Harvey can start…

Times: Arkema Incident “Raised Doubts” About Chemical Industry’s Preparedness.

I have a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet about the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the chemical industry in the Gulf States — and those who live near chemical facilities.  Although the loss of control over chemicals at the Crosby Arkema chemical plant seems to have fallen out of the news in favor of…

Post-Harvey Chemical Plant Start-Ups: Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Department of Labor yesterday announced a number of initiatives to address the impact of Hurricane Harvey. Among those was an announcement that OSHA will cease conducting programmed enforcement actions in the affected areas to avoid disrupting recovery operations. This makes sense, sort of. “Programmed inspections” are “optional,” to the extent they are not legally…

Harvey Update: Flooded Chemical Plant Explodes. Trump Policies Increase Future Risk

Cable news and newspapers across the country are headlining the continuing explosions at the  Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, that was flooded by Hurricane Harvey.  The plant was evacuated after power failed and several containers full of volatile chemicals that required cooling threatened to explode when power was lost and the generators failed. At…