Chevron Phillips Trying to Turn Safety Around

Chevron Phillips said it has initiated a series of actions to\r\naddress issues raised by a recent OSHA investigation and to further enhance safety it Houston Chemical Complex.

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Six months ago, Chevron Phillips Chemical Co.''s Houston Chemical Complex (HCC) was devastated by a massive explosion at the facility''s K-Resin Plant that killed one worker and injured 69 others.

Now, the company said it has initiated a series of actions to address issues raised by a recent OSHA investigation as a result of that accident and to further enhance safety at the HCC.

The company said the program has a goal of making the three-plant, 630-acre complex on the Houston Ship Channel in Pasadena, Texas, one of the safest chemical process facilities in the world.

Chevron Phillips said OSHA''s investigation is only part of the reason for the initiative. It also claims that many of the new actions come on top of steps that were already taken to improve safety at the facility.

"As part of a complete review of the HCC facility, a special Safety Assessment Review Committee was created in the fall of 1999 to conduct interviews with nearly 200 HCC employees on safety issues and make recommendations regarding worker training, safety policies and procedures and the effectiveness of plant safety systems," said James Gallogly, CEO of Chevron Phillips, a venture of Phillips Petroleum Co. and Chevron Corp., which assumed ownership of HCC on July 1.

The Safety Assessment Review Committee was comprised of union, management and chemical manufacturing industry representatives, including a retired OSHA safety official and retired industry safety experts from DuPont Chemical and Amoco Oil Companies, said Gallogly.

Other new safety initiatives included:

  • Appointment of an HCC "Safety Czar" as part of the reorganization and expansion of the HCC safety staff to more effectively address safety concerns of employees at the plant.
  • Selection of an independent consultant to conduct a chemical safety analysis of HCC''s K-Resin Plant and extend it to all the plants in the Houston complex.
  • Selection of two full-time hourly workers to serve in HCC''s Health and Safety Department to help develop a behavior-based safety program and move the facility toward OSHA''s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).
  • Development of a special emphasis training curriculum for HCC employees and their supervisors who work on equipment that contains reactive chemicals.
  • Sponsorship of a symposium on improved understanding of reactive chemicals for HCC workers, safety workers from other Chevron Phillips chemical plants, and workers from other companies who want to attend.

Additionally, Gallogly said HCC employee safety training programs were made more effective, problem-solving classes were held for plant operators and safety policies were simplified.

As a result, Gallogly said plant employees have been playing a greater role in addressing safety issues through their service on the HCC Employee Safety Committee.

"In the area of operational improvements at the K-Resin Plant, since March, we launched a complete review of our K-Resin processes and procedures by creating four new teams comprised of operators, mechanics, supervisors, engineers and outside experts to look at specific areas and recommends improvements," said Gallogly.

The four teams are a Risk Assessment & Risk Reduction Team, Organization and Culture Team, Training Team and an Operating Issues and Projects Team.

The Risk Assessment & Risk Reduction Team is concluding a review of the entire K-Resin manufacturing process, studying closely the reactivity of compounds to further identify, assess and improve safety.

The Organization and Culture Team has been studying the human factors that contribute to operating a safe, efficient facility. They have established a challenging set of guiding principles, assigned roles and responsibilities regarding personnel behavior and called for increased accountability of personal safety performance.

The Training Team is requiring that employees seeking to work at the K-Resin Plant complete an intensive re-qualification process to demonstrate their on-the-job skills and proficiency.

The Operating Issues and Projects Team took a new look at management of high technology systems, including the use of sophisticated alarm control systems. This group identified a range of operating issues, developed improvements and is steadily completing projects and other enhancements while the K-Resin plant is out of service.

Chevron Phillips wants to make sure those outside the plant also understand the commitment to safety the company has made.

Gallogly said that the company continues efforts to communicate with local business and community groups about the progress being made at the plant.

"Our company continues to benefit from this dialogue," added Gallogly. "For instance, HCC General Manager Jim Ross recently attended a new subcommittee of the Pasadena Citizens'' Advisory Council where members include local officials, school district and community representative. The senior management team at HCC have teamed up with plant employees to develop a dialogue with local council members. They''re taking on the tough questions and participating in frank discussions that lead to positive changes."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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