Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Congress Turns Up Heat on OSHA

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Congress Turns Up Heat on OSHA

Article excerpt

CSB Chairwoman Carolyn Merritt: BP's Texas City refinery "was an extremely dangerous workplace by any objective standard." HOUSE EDUCATION AND LABOR COMMITTEE Two days after the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) unveiled a report alleging that OSHA failed to provide effective oversight of BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery--where 15 workers were killed and 180 others were hurt in a 2005 explosion--OSHA became the target of Congressional scrutiny during a March 22 hearing on Capitol Hill.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that because the Bush administration has transformed the agency from "a law enforcement organization to a so-called voluntary compliance organization," he fears that the risk of injury and death remains high for workers in many U.S. oil refineries and chemical facilities.

"The BP explosion was the biggest workplace disaster in the last 18 years, yet it received very little Congressional scrutiny until today," Miller said. "Even more upsetting is that 2 years after this catastrophe, we're still seeing a disturbing pattern of major fires and explosions in U.S. refineries."

Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., said that it is clear to him that Congress needs to take a "long look at OSHA and its effectiveness" and to see how much funding it is willing to allocate toward hiring more OSHA inspectors for refineries.

Hare also promised that he will "start kicking some OSHA people in the kneecaps" if the agency doesn't ratchet up its enforcement efforts. …

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