Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Procor: Proud to Work Safely

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Procor: Proud to Work Safely

Article excerpt

Most company presidents would never acknowledge that their company had an "atrocious" safety record. Lorne Peppler, president of Procor Sulphur Services Inc., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, admits just that, but at least for him, it's a distant memory.

In 1979, the sulphur processing contractor had 36 lost-time accidents (LTAs). Since then, the 150-employee company has had a continuously improving safety record. Last year, it had no LTAs at any of its six Canadian facilities. Its Waterton facility in Pincher Creek, Alberta, has had no lost-time cases in more than 15 years.

Company officials believe incident reporting, training and employee accountability efforts are major factors in Procor's safety success. The employees of Procor, a member of the Chicago-based Marmon Group, are one of Occupational Hazards' six Winners Circle Safety Finalists.

"I'm proud of our safety people and every employee," said Peppler, who joined Procor in 1979 as director of operations. "It's easy for senior management to say we want safety, and I did, but our people have done the work."

Peppler said his interest in safety performance is linked to improving relationships with government regulators, cutting workers' compensation and other accident costs, and marketing safety as a benefit to potential customers. He is also motivated by a fatal accident on a project he worked on in Puerto Rico years ago, before he joined Procor.

`Risky Business'

Procor Sulphur Services works with host oil and gas processing plants at six facilities in Canada and one in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Procor recently acquired two additional facilities in Canada and is bringing them into the safety program. Working with major companies such as Shell and Chevron, Procor processes sulphur, a byproduct of the oil and gas industry, into liquid, granulated or block form.

Procor then loads trains with liquid or solid sulphur for transportation to fertilizer and sulphuric acid manufacturers in around the world. In addition to operating sulphur processing facilities, the company sells equipment to other processors worldwide.

Procor's union workers face a variety of hazards with serious consequences. Burns and other ill effects can result from contact with sulphur in molten form (at temperatures of 300 F), or when it is released as sulphur dioxide gas.

In addition, concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in and around tank cars can reach 40,000 ppm -- hundreds of times greater than generally accepted exposure limits. Falls are a concern when employees work on sulphur blocks that can be 40 to 80 feet high. Procor also deals with more common risks such as slips and falls, cuts, and back and muscle strain.

"Our people realize they're working in a risky business," said Carol LeBrun, Procor's administrator for safety and environment. "The stakes are pretty high, but fortunately, so is the level of safety awareness."

Marshall Worobets, Procor's director of safety and loss control for 15 years, leads the safety program at the corporate level. Worobets sets policy and interacts with the government and other Procor managers, while LeBrun does a lot of the program administration, recordkeeping and reporting.

Two field safety coordinators, Con Lynk and Michel Boilard, work at the two largest facilities and provide support to other sites. Environmental Supervisor Clive Rutland is also involved in the safety program in crossover areas like emergency response. Procor's safety budget ranges between $250,000 and $280,000.

Waterton, the largest and most complex facility, employs 25 people, while others may have as few as three people.

"We stress teamwork and looking out for each other," said Worobets, explaining why every field employee is trained in first aid/CPR, confined space entry, emergency response and defensive driving. "People watch out for new employees, but everybody knows he's in charge of his own safety. …

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