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BP, Union Reach Safety Accord

Following the release of an independent panel report that points to serious safety problems at BP's five U.S. refineries, the United Steelworkers union (USW) announced it has reached "an agreement in principle" with BP on a comprehensive joint safety initiative.

The union, which represents 4,300 BP employees in the United States, said it "fully supports" the panel's findings and that that "BP's agreement with USW shows that the company takes the panel's report seriously."

"Nothing can mitigate the 2005 tragedy," USW President Leo Gerard said. "But our new agreement with BP shows the company's willingness to work with the union to address the root causes of the explosion, not just in Texas City, but throughout the corporation."

On Jan. 16, a team led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker issued a 300-plus-page report that details its analysis of safety at the company's five U.S. refineries. (For more on the report, read "Panel Finds BP Lacking in Safety Leadership.")

Gerard contended that the factors that caused BP's Texas City explosion were not isolated problems and that the root causes went much deeper, stemming from the way process safety – defined in the report as "the prevention of leaks, spills, equipment malfunctions, over-pressures, excessive temperatures, corrosion, metal fatigue and other similar conditions" – was managed within the company.

USW International Vice President Gary Beevers noted that while the Baker panel only examined BP, the union's safety push "will not end with BP's U.S. refineries."

"The company has committed itself to discussions on improving safety worldwide, and in the union we plan to broaden this effort to all the oil companies," Beevers said. "We look forward to improved relations with BP as the first step in that process."

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