The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recommended March 20 in its final investigation report on the March 23, 2005 explosion at BPs refinery in Texas City, Texas, that the United Steelworkers (USW) union develop safety standards with the American Petroleum Institute (API) for the refining and petrochemical industry.

We welcome this opportunity to make improvements and changes in the health and safety culture at refineries and petrochemical plants, said USW president Leo W. Gerard. These new standards will have to be crafted so they make a real difference and are not simply watered-down versions of change.

We are glad the CSB recognized that industry cant police itself alone and that other parties, including labor, need to be at the table when creating health and safety standards that truly protect the men and women who work daily in our refineries and petrochemical plants, said USW International vice president Gary Beevers. We should be able to prevent incidents before they happen with these standards.

The board recommended that the USW and API work together to create the standards with representatives from industry, labor, government, public interest and environmental organizations, and experts from relevant scientific organizations and disciplines. The process of creating the standards would conform to the American National Standards Institutes principles of openness, balance, due process and consensus.

The parties would be charged with developing consensus American National Standards Institute standard performance indicators for process safety that would be publicly reported. The safety standards would recommend methods to develop and use leading and lagging indicators for individual facilities as well as nationwide.

Leading indicators reveal the condition of a facility and whether it is headed for disaster or is on track. An example of a leading indicator is a near miss report. Lagging indicators, such as the number of injuries, look at health and safety after the fact.

The parties also would develop fatigue prevention guidelines that at a minimum limit the number of hours and days of work and address shift work.

The CSB also recommended that the USW international union and Local 13-1 at Texas City work with BP to establish a joint program that promotes reporting, investigating and analyzing of incidents, near misses, process upsets and major plant hazards without fear of retaliation.

Recommendations would be tracked to their completion and lessons learned would be shared with the workforce. The USWs Triangle of Prevention health and safety program accomplishes these objectives.

The USW represents more than 30,000 workers in the refining and petrochemical industries and is the largest industrial union in North America with over 850,000 members in the U.S., Canada, Virgin Islands and Aruba.