US site-safety groups made progress before union walkout - API

05 August 2009 21:50  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Two committees drafting refinery-site-safety standards were making good progress before a union walkout of the process, a trade group said on Wednesday.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union left the talks, saying that the make-up of the committees was weighted too heavily towards industry.

The walkout surprised the American Petroleum Institute (API), since progress was being made in drafting the rules, said Bob Greco, director of downstream and industry operations for the oil trade group.

The new standards would address recommendations that the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) made in its report of the 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas.

The board recommended that a committee draft a standard for safety performance-indicators. The standard would also address how and when to report accidents and near misses to the public.

The other standard would establish guidelines to prevent fatigue among workers, the recommendation said.

Each standard would be drafted by a committee that would include representatives from a variety of groups, including industry, labour, government, environmental organisations and academia, the recommendations said.

The USW accused the API of excluding environmental and public-interest groups from the committees, preventing them from building a consensus around the standards.

In fact, a list of participants showed no environmental or public-interest groups.

One 23-member committee had 13 representatives for the refining and chemical industries. Labour had three representatives, including the USW.

Another 21-member committee had 11 refining and chemical representatives. Labour had two.

During the conference call, Greco said the API went beyond the required outreach.

However, environmental groups turned down API invitations to participate in the committees, the trade group said. The union was welcomed to suggest environmental groups, but it failed to do so, the API said.

Moreover, the API has not denied any group from being part of the committees, Greco said.

Indeed, other members include representatives from academia, other trade groups, engineering, construction and general-interest groups.

"We have tried to reach consensus positions that everyone can live with," he said.  

To gather more feedback on the standards, the API will conduct webinars, Greco said.

The API said the committees will continue drafting the standards without the USW. The standards should be issued later in the year.

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By: Al Greenwood
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