Representative Gene Green (D., TX) has introduced legislation that would force refineries to disclose contractor deaths in sector safety statistics reported to OSHA, effectively closing a loophole that critics say allows companies to under report fatalities.
Green introduced the legislation after the Houston Chronicle reported that the 15 people killed in a March explosion at BP's Texas City refinery were contractors, and therefore would not be reported to OSHA as refinery workplace fatalities. The deaths do appear in government statistics, however, just not as refinery workers. Government statistics report no refinery deaths for 2002 or 2003, although nine people died at refineries in those years, the report says. The deaths often show up in catchall "other" categories such as "Special Trade Contractors not Otherwise Classified," it says.
Green's bill would require refineries and other industrial facilities to combine the injury and illness logs for employees and contractors, which are now kept separately. The contractor injury statistics are not included when the government compiles safety statistics.
Companies track the overall safety rates, although they might not be reported to the government in a way that reflects them as a chemical industry accident, one industry source says. ACC recently launched a performance tracking Web sites as part of its Responsible Care program, which will include statistics on contractor safety.
Green is also pushing for more severe penalties against companies whose willful disregard leads to workplace deaths. Such infractions are currently classified as a misdemeaner and several members of Congress are pushing for that to be increased to a felony, according to the Houston Chronicles report. However, in a situation such as the March accident, BP would not be charged with a crime because the dead were not employees, it says.
Separately, plaintiffs attorneys are reporting that the settlement negotiations with families of the dead and the injured in the BP accident are moving ahead at a surprisingly quick rate, and resolution of at least some of the claims could be reached in the next serveral weeks, media reports say.
Copyright Chemical Week Associates Jun 15, 2005
Author(s): Kara Sissell
Document type: News
Publication title: Chemical Week. New York: Jun 15, 2005. Vol. 167, Iss. 20; pg. 13, 1 pgs
Source type: Periodical