Senate Confirms Two New Members of the Chemical Safety Board

The Senate in December confirmed two of President Biden’s nominees to the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents.

The previous administration left four of the five seats unfilled since May 2020, seriously limiting the board’s ability to examine safety incidents, and pass on the lessons and recommendations to industry, unions, professional organizations and the public.

“Board seats need to be filled with a diverse slate of qualified individuals. Having a full board can help the agency address its high backlog, and fulfill its mission of using independent investigations to improve chemical safety so workers are not injured or killed as a result of their exposure to hazardous substances,” said USW Health, Safety and Environment Director Steve Sallman.

Sylvia Johnson and Steve Owens are now each serving five-year terms on the board and join Chair and CEO Katherine Lemos, who the Senate confirmed in March 2020.

Johnson used to work as an occupational epidemiologist in the United Auto Workers health and safety department. Owens had worked as an assistant administrator in the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention from 2009-2011.

To help increase the agency’s capacity to help workers, Lemos also testified before a congressional subcommittee last September that the CSB was hiring four investigators and expanding its contractor base in specialized fields like equipment testing and blast modeling. This would reportedly keep the CSB on target to reach an agency high for investigation and technical specialists by the end of FY 2023.

Sallman said the board’s work is applicable across sectors with highly hazardous substances and processes, including many USW-represented workplaces, and serves as a vital tool that his department uses in helping keep USW members safe on the job.

“We show CSB-produced videos and cite CSB conclusions in trainings and safety meetings with rank-and-file workers to prevent future incidents in the areas of process safety management, hot work, combustible dust and inadvertent mixing,” Sallman said.

USW members can read these CSB investigation reports and recommendations and watch the agency’s videos by click here.

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