Security Awards That Endanger Employees’ Lives

Ceramic moment saddleBP, Massey Energy and Tesoro all have hauled out plaques celebrating safety achievements to deflect allegations of corporate recklessness within the aftermath of explosions in April that killed forty seven of their workers.

Though each of those companies accepted awards for security statistics, not one has taken duty for workplace deaths.

The disconnect between security awards and useless staff has enabled these firms to characterize the explosions as accidents, random occasions for which nobody really is to blame, certainly not corporate officials who management conditions in workplaces. That’s why these pseudo-security awards are so destructive.

The prizes congratulate corporations for lowering incidents equivalent to slips and falls that injure employees to the point that they should miss work. Lowering worker injuries is nice, no doubt about it. But preserving workers’ lives is crucial. The corporate awards packages fail to recognize employers who efficiently institute extra complicated, expensive and rigorous procedures referred to as “process security administration” to remove office catastrophes that kill.

Awards for slip and fall reduction promote complacency. The plaques hanging in hallways say the oil rig or coal mine or refinery is super protected – so safe it is worthy of commemoration. They create the illusion of safety in workplaces the place course of security administration hasn’t been correctly carried out. The safety plaques are paper shields, easily immolated in explosions, together with the employees they beguiled.

Some BP executives actually experienced a little of that burn on April 20. A gaggle of BP bigwigs was aboard Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico when it exploded. They’d traveled out to the oil rig to have a good time a safety milestone. Employees on the rig had gone seven years with no lost-time accident – nicely, seven years without reporting one, anyway. Corporations routinely subtly and overtly discourage employees from reporting injuries. For instance, firms grant cash awards for designated time periods throughout which no injury reviews are filed and pressure mishap victims to wear distinctive clothing like orange vests in order that they get the blame – and never the company – for damage reports that price total crews their cash awards.

The BP executives escaped Deepwater Horizon with their lives. Eleven roustabouts and roughnecks on that day of security celebration did not.

Just last year, the federal Minerals Administration Service (MMS) gave BP and Transocean, the proprietor of the Deepwater Horizon rig, Security Awards for Excellence -Protected awards. MMS bestows these on offshore oil and fuel firms for “outstanding security and pollution prevention performance.” Once more this 12 months, BP was a finalist for a Protected award. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, MMS postponed announcement of this 12 months’s winners. Last 12 months, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Well being Administration (OSHA) offered BP Alaska with a three-year re-certification of its Star award, which acknowledges safety efficiency.

All of that might lead staff to imagine BP is a safe employer – not just like the BP with a refinery in Texas City, Texas that blew up in 2005 killing 15 workers and injuring 170, the BP that OSHA slapped with its second largest whole penalty ever — $21 million – for security violations at Texas Metropolis that led to the huge explosion, the BP that OSHA hit with its largest ever tremendous — $87.Four million – last fall for failure over four years to comply with the terms of its settlement settlement to right the potential hazards at Texas Metropolis.

No, the safety-award-profitable BP should be different, a corporation that acknowledges its responsibility to establish and conduct protected workplaces.

A examine after the BP-Texas Metropolis explosion confirmed that among the finest ways to forestall such catastrophes is assembly the requirements of course of safety administration. These use engineering and management techniques to repeatedly be sure that machinery and piping are in good situation, meticulously handle and document changes, and correctly train workers. The concepts should not exclusive to refineries. They can be utilized to improve safety in other industrial processes as properly.

The refinery industry accepted the method safety standards however hasn’t rigorously carried out them. The United Steelworkers union, which represents oil staff, met with oil corporations and the American Petroleum Institute (API), a trade group for drillers and refiners, in an attempt to write two new requirements addressing main indicators within the refining business and worker fatigue. But the union abandoned the trouble last fall because the trade was more concerned about image than safety.

Then, on April 2, an explosion at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Wash. killed seven employees. Like BP, Tesoro is a safety award winner – however not for comprehensive process safety management. The Nationwide Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) has granted the Anacortes refinery quite a few prizes over time – “benefit” and “achievement” and “gold” — including two final yr. Tesoro notes on its net site that this recognition is for lowering “recordable damage rates”- the lost-time injuries that should be reported to OSHA.

NPRA would not sponsor an award for companies that improve course of security administration. It is trying to gather statistics on process security from drillers and refiners, however participation is anything however obligatory. NPRA stresses that the information it receives on course of security can be collected on an aggregate stage so it isn’t particular to particular person refineries, will likely be saved secret and will probably be used for benchmarking solely. Clearly, it’s striving to entice reticent refiners to take part.

Three days after the Tesoro tragedy, 29 employees died in an explosion in Massey Power’s Upper Huge Branch mine in West Virginia. Massey CEO Don Blankenship immediately began blaming God and the employees themselves for the catastrophe and citing Massey’s safety awards. In 2009, The Nationwide Mining Affiliation and the U.S. Mine Security and Well being Administration (MSHA) gave Massey three “Sentinels of Security” awards, probably the most any mining company had ever obtained in one year. These recognize, because the NPRA and MMS awards do, low levels of misplaced-time accidents. “At Massey Vitality, we embrace our commitment to safety in any respect levels – from government to miner. The Sentinels of Security awards mirror the corporate’s dedication to safety in any respect of our amenities,” Blankenship mentioned six months before the worst mining disaster in 40 years killed 29 Massey workers.

After two Massey miners suffocated in 2006, the corporation pleaded responsible and paid $4.2 million in criminal fines and civil penalties – the biggest settlement in coal business historical past — for willful violation of obligatory safety requirements. By a depend the United Mine Staff of America conducted, 52 people have been killed on Massey Power properties prior to now decade. UMWA President Cecil Roberts known as Massey mines essentially the most dangerous in America.

And yet, Blankenship touts Massey’s security awards. Like BP and Tesoro.

The standards for these prizes must change to stop deluding employees and deceiving the general public. No agency or association should ever once more laud workplaces which can be lax on meeting process safety administration requirements.

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