The chairperson and CEO of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board says she is “devastated” that the 2018 budget proposal of President Trump seeks to eliminate the CSB.
“We have a truly unique mission, as we are the only agency that acts as a watchdog for both industry and government agencies,” CSB chair Vanessa L. Allen Sutherland said in a statement.
Similar to the model of the National Transportation Safety Board and Department of Transportation, Congress made the CSB’s investigative function independent of the enforcement, inspection and rulemaking authorities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The intent was for the CSB to identify chemical hazards which have not been addressed by OSHA and the EPA.
Formed in 1998 and also known as the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the independent, non-regulatory federal agency is responsible for investigating industrial chemical accidents and seeking root causes at fixed industrial facilities.
“Without the CSB, lessons will not be learned from future high-consequence fires and explosions,” said Sutherland, who became CSB chairperson and CEO two years ago.
“Every refinery and chemical plant should be aware of the CSB’s work and support its continued existence,” she said. “The CSB’s learnings from high quality accident investigations will not only keep communities and workers safe but also improve companies’ bottom lines. Simply put, prevention is good business.”
Sutherland cited Texas’ 24 chemical accidents investigated by the board, making the nation’s top energy-producing state the one with the highest number of CSB investigations.
“We hope that leaders in government across Texas will support the agency’s ongoing work,” Sutherland said.
She noted that 12 years ago, a costly explosion and fire at the isomerization unit of the BP Texas City Refinery became “one of the deadliest industrial accidents in the history of the United States.” The BP Texas City accident in 2005 killed 15 workers and cost billions of dollars in settlements and fines.
Sutherland also cited the 2010 explosion, fire and oil spill off the Louisiana coast at the Gulf of Mexico’s Deepwater Horizon offshore rig, whose owners had Texas ties. That oil rig accident killed 11 workers, cost billions of dollars in settlement claims and did “untold environmental damage in the Gulf Coast region,“ Sutherland said.
She pointed out that “the cost of just one accident can far exceed the $11 million annual budget of the CSB. Ultimately, we play an invaluable, irreplaceable role in the safety and security of Americans.”
There is “still much to learn,” Sutherland said. But already, its investigations have resulted in “a new standard of care for corporate boards of directors and CEOs throughout the world, calling for the same level of scrutiny for process safety management as financial management.”
Safety not only saves lives but is “always good for the bottom line,” she said.
“Boards of directors of oil and chemical companies should examine every detail of their process safety programs to prevent future death and destruction,” she said. “The CSB challenges the industry to ask what reports, safety videos and educational tools they are using in their facilities.”
She said the CSB “is dedicated to uncovering the hidden catastrophic risk factors that potentially wreak havoc on business.”
Sutherland noted that a February 2015 explosion at an ExxonMobil plant in Torrance, CA — which the CSB is investigating — contributed to raising gasoline prices in California above $3 per gallon. That cost California motorists at least $2.4 billion more in pump prices in the six months following the explosion, according to the RAND Corp.
“Industrial accidents do not occur in a vacuum,” Sutherland said. “They reverberate throughout industry and affect ordinary Americans. The costs are enormous, from injuries and fatalities to long-term economic consequences.”
Besides the CSB, industrial and refinery workers have a friend in Jim Adler & Associates. The veteran Texas law firm can help victims of chemical explosions, refinery fires and other industrial accidents to claim payments for their injury losses.
Contact an experienced workplace accident lawyer with Jim Adler & Associates today and you’ll receive a free legal review of your case — at no obligation to you. Then you can decide if you want to proceed with an industrial accident lawsuit on behalf of you and your family.