BP Refinery Tragedy Prompts Safety Bills

Spurred by the 2005 BP Texas City refinery explosion – in which a number of contract workers were killed or injured – two federal lawmakers have introduced legislation that would impose stricter injury reporting requirements and harsher penalties for employers that have contract workers on their job sites.

U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, introduced H.R. 141, which would require employers to report contract workers’ injuries the same way they report their own employees’ injuries. Under H.R. 141, all deaths, injuries and illnesses among contracts workers would have to be reported to OSHA.

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said he planned to introduce legislation May 21 that that would make employers criminally liable for willful safety standard violations resulting in the death of a contract employee working on their sites.

Gene Green said that he was surprised to learn that BP wasn't required to report the contract workers' deaths to OSHA due to the fact they were contractors and not BP employees.

“It seemed like the whole thing was being swept under the rug,” Gene Green said. “The workers who were killed were in trailers that were too close to the isomerization unit, which is exactly the sort of thing OSHA should know about.

“By making employers report accidents, we’ll be able to keep all workers safer.”

In a widespread energy industry practice, many workers are employed by contract firms rather than the companies at whose sites they work. In some cases, these contract workers work side by side with the company’s employees for decades.

“Besides closing obvious loopholes, these bills will help resolve the injustice done to the workers who were killed,” Gene Green said. “It won’t bring anyone back, but we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.”

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