Texas Senator Proposes State OSHA

In light of the March 23, 2005, explosion at BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery, a Texas lawmaker proposed to create a state OSHA to oversee “high-risk work sites” such as refineries.

State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, whose district includes Texas City, said he proposed the bill to provide “a safety net closer to home" given that a recent Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board report concluded that lax federal-OSHA oversight played a role in causing the explosion that killed 15 people and injured more than 170.

Eiland's bill, dubbed the “Remember the 15” bill, would empower the state to collect information from employers regarding the frequency of accidents and man-hour losses at their businesses. It also would create a task force to inspect high-risk work sites, including those manufacturing probable carcinogens and flammable or explosive products.

Bill Unlikely to Pass

The bill – which Eiland acknowledged is unlikely to pass during the current legislative session – would require refineries and chemical manufacturing plants to provide 48 hours' written notice before starting up or shutting down a unit.

It also would bar companies from installing temporary employee housing within 1,000 feet of flammable or explosive materials. CSB's BP Texas City investigation concluded that mobile trailers parked too close to the blow down stack in the refinery's isomerization unit – the epicenter of the explosion – worsened the death and injury toll.

John Bisney, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C., said the legislation would be primarily a state issue but the institute's Texas members “would certainly continue to comply with whatever laws or regulations” Texas enacts.

Bisney added that the institute would want assurance that any refinery inspectors are “experienced and knowledgeable in refinery operations.”

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