Carolyn Merritt, who served as chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) from August 2002 through August 2007, died in St. Louis Aug. 29 after a long battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was 61.
“Carolyn believed passionately in the CSB's mission. She worked tirelessly to save lives of workers and the public through chemical accident prevention, insisting on thorough investigations and meaningful safety recommendations,” said CSB Chairman John Bresland in a statement.
Prior to becoming CSB chairman, Merritt served in executive roles in major corporations with responsibility for health, safety and environmental issues. After being appointed to CSB chairman in 2002, she led a renewal of the agency, Bresland said, and helped establish it as a highly respected institution in the field of chemical process safety.
“I had the pleasure of serving with Carolyn on the CSB board during her 5-year term prior to my appointment as chairman, when I committed all of us to build on her legacy,” Bresland said. “All of us at the CSB are mourning the loss of this wonderful woman.”
Bresland pointed out that Merritt became a crusader for greater corporate investment in chemical process safety following the tragic 2005 Texas City refinery explosion. She elevated the term “safety culture” in company boardrooms, Bresland said, and was outspoken in her belief that accidents are preventable and workers should be safe on the job.
Merritt also fought for greater protections against combustible dust by conducting hundreds of interviews and giving speeches in pursuit of CSB’s mission. Bresland added that Merritt greatly increased CSB's productivity and its impact on safety and worked to recruit new staff and build bridges with colleagues worldwide.
“We cannot find words to express our thanks for everything she accomplished,” said Bresland. “All of us at the CSB send our sincere wishes of sympathy to Carolyn's husband, family and friends.”