CSB Updates Public on Ongoing Activities During Business Meeting in Washington, DC

Animation from "Anatomy of a Disaster"

Washington, DC, November 24, 2015 – Yesterday at a business meeting in Washington, DC, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board updated the public on the agency’s ongoing investigations and organizational activities, and voted to change the status of a recommendation made to the BP Global Executive Board of Directors to “Closed – Acceptable Action.”

The recommendation was issued as part of the investigation into the March 23, 2005, accident at the BP America Refinery in Texas City, Texas, where a series of explosions killed fifteen workers injured 180 others. The CSB recommended in its final report that BP should implement an incident reporting program throughout the company’s refining organization. The CSB stipulated that the program encourage the reporting of incidents without fear of retaliation, require prompt corrective actions of findings from incident reports, and call for communication of key lessons learned to management, hourly employees, and the oil and gas industry.

To fulfill the recommendation, BP revised its internal policies and procedures including the establishment of an independent, confidential 24/7 hotline for reporting incidents without fear of retaliation. They now track all action items from near misses, incidents, and investigations in a database to ensure that corrective actions are assigned and completed promptly. After analysis by the CSB’s recommendations staff, as well as comments from the public, the Board decided in a unanimous vote that BP’s actions fulfill the intent of the recommendation, and changed its status to “Closed – Acceptable Action.”

In addition to the vote, the Board discussed an overview of CSB activities including completion of open investigations. Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Over the past 90 days, the CSB has been working to finalize four of the agency’s seven open investigation reports, which we anticipate will be presented for board consideration during the first quarter of calendar year 2016.” Those include investigations into the 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the 2014 sulfuric acid release at the Tesoro Refinery in Martinez, California, and the 2013 fire and explosion at the Williams Olefins plant in Geismar, Louisiana.

Chairperson Sutherland also gave updates on financial and governance issues, including:

-The CSB submitted the annual Performance and Accountability Report – or PAR – to the Office of Management and Budget, which describes the agency’s performance measures, results and accountabilities processes for fiscal year 2015

-An independent accounting firm audited the CSB’s consolidated financial statements from fiscal year 2015 and has issued an Unmodified Opinion - the highest level of assurance – that the statements are fair and conform accepted accounting principles

-CSB staff continue to review and edit outdated board orders to accurately reflect agency current and best practices in a variety of critical areas

-And the CSB will be engaging a consultant to provide an organizational assessment to include a review of the CSB’s current organizational structure and employee position descriptions to determine how the agency can improve its effectiveness.

Finally, the Board discussed the possibility of future public meetings on worker fatigue and process safety management reform.

The CSB’s next public business meeting will be held in Washington, DC, in January 2016.  Details about the location and agenda for the business meeting will be available on the agency’s website, www.csb.gov, at a later date.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.

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