Several international unions representing hundreds of thousands of chemical workers on October 5 criticized the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for its report on the October 11, 2008, oleum release at INDSPEC Chemical Corporation in Petrolia, Pa. The unions reacted to the CSB's new report on a release of oleum, an acid used in various industries, from a manufacturing facility represented by United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 6346-25. The local union was excluded from the the investigation by the company, proclaiming the investigation to be privileged.
"The CSB report process is broken," said Mike Wright, USW health, safety and environment director. "This report lacks the quality of analysis of past reports. A major release of oleum, a widely used and highly hazardous material that endangers both workers and the public, should trigger a comprehensive investigation and formal recommendations, rather than just lessons learned. CSB recommendations are key to long-term and sound improvement of workplace and community health and safety."
"OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) requirements are designed to ensure that management has knowledge of, and responsibility over, the systems, equipment and practices in the plant. The CSB report fails to identify the key and true root causes of the oleum release," said Eric Frumin, Change to Win health and safety coordinator.
"The report has failed our workers and our community and it will do little to prevent future incidents," said Harry Boltz, president of USW Local 6346-25. "OSHA citations issued contained 27 legally binding requirements. Our employer's report contains 30 recommendations. The CSB case study contains three general and somewhat vague recommendations. Workers here and members of the community around the plant are still at risk of exposure to oleum, so are many others across the country."
Union safety and health leaders recommend the following actions:
1. The Obama Administration should immediately fill the existing vacant seat and name a candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the board.
2. The CSB should examine its process for worker, union and public involvement in the investigation process to ensure that all parties can fully participate to bring about workplace and community safety.
3. The CSB should examine this investigation to determine if a more detailed review of the incident and more complete report was necessary and would have been more valuable to the stakeholders.
The USW critique of the CSB INDSPEC report is available at: (http://assets.usw.org/Releases/Misc/usw_critique_of_the_csb_indspec_report.pdf).