The Oilworker: May 2023

A Message From the NOBP Chair

It is once again with a heavy heart that I share the news of a fallen USW Brother.

Scott Higgins from Local 13-1 died in a fire at the Marathon Galveston Bay refinery on Monday, May 15. Two other workers were also hospitalized. Please keep his family, our Brothers and Sisters from Local 13-1 and all the others impacted by the fire in your thoughts and prayers.

This is the most recent in a string of serious incidents in our industry, which, despite our sustained efforts, continues to struggle with health and safety. In just the past few weeks, four workers were hospitalized due to a gas leak at Marathon’s Wilmington Refinery in Los Angeles and nine more as a result of a massive fire in Deer Park at a Shell Chemical Plant.

This rate of injury is unacceptable.

It is imperative that, as a union, we are a central part of the investigations following these incidents so that we can ensure that we’re identifying the true root causes. We also push employers to not just take superficial corrective actions but also to follow through on deeper solutions so that we truly eliminate the hazards and prevent these sorts of incidents from happening again.

Our industry had its best financial year ever in 2022 and followed up with an even stronger first quarter in 2023. Companies are flush with cash and should be making needed upgrades; they have absolutely no excuse for putting health and safety on the backburner.

Many of you attended the recent USW Health, Safety and Environment conference, where we were able to share resources and recommit ourselves to continuing the fight to make health and safety the top priority in our plants.

Now, we must continue to fight to ensure our employers don’t get away with putting profits ahead of safety. We must hold them accountable when they violate regulations, procedures or any other rules.

If you are facing these or any challenges related to health and safety in your plant, please utilize all of the available USW resources including your USW and joint health and safety committees and your health and safety and process safety management representatives.

These resources can provide immediate assistance as well as channeling support from the USW Health and Safety Department.

On April 28, we marked Workers’ Memorial Day, a time when we remember those who were sickened or died on the job and renew our fight for safer workplaces. This past month made it clear how urgent these tasks remain.

Please remain vigilant, look out for one another and stay safe.

In solidarity,

Mike Smith
NOPB Chair

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