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Secretary of Labor Solis gets serious about workplace safety with BP

November 1st, 2009 · 7 Comments

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, one of my (s)heroes, is getting serious about enforcing workplace safety laws. Back in August, she toured a West Virginia coal mine, tweeting her experience. Now she is coming out swinging against the oil industry, as OSHA issued a record $87.4 million fine against BP for safety violations last week.

This record fine stems from an explosion incident in 2005 where 15 people were killed and 170 injured at a BP refinery in Texas. OSHA had been investigating to determine whether BP was complying with an agreement it signed with the agency after the explosion to reduce workplace hazards. And Secretary Solis felt that the company was out of compliance.

Secretary Solis said, “When BP signed the OSHA settlement from the March 2005 explosion, it agreed to take comprehensive action to protect employees. Instead of living up to that commitment, BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated.”

Finally, BP is fighting back with a challenge to the fine stating that it has pursued action plans outlined in the agreement, but there have been three other fatalities at this plant since the 2005 explosion. It will be interesting to see how the Department of Labor and Secretary Solis proceed with workplace violations like this one.

Tags: Government Accountability · Labor Relations · Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 El Cholo // Nov 1, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Now here is a role model for all public servants. Something that should be noted by the vast majority of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members, who don’t seem to be able to define the actual meaning of public service. With the exception of Raul Grijalva, who does get it, Hilda Solis’ commitment to “The People,” is very inspiring.

  • 2 BettyM // Nov 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Hope she can place heavy fines on every big company that thinks they can get away with poor safety practices.

  • 3 FormerStaffer // Nov 2, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    I agree…Hilda Solis is quite the role model. Hopefully college graduates see the benefit of following Hilda Solis’ public service path, rather than emulating the Sanchez sisters.

  • 4 theKaiser // Nov 2, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Hilda Solis definitely has her work cut for her. Especially since Industrial America has had thirty years to reverse the work environment safety standards, and put profits ahead of people. But she’s the right person for the task.

  • 5 John Astad // Nov 4, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Here is some interesting info concerning the OSHA citations that BP did not document that equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP).

    In addition most of the citations are concerned with inlet line pressure drop on numerous pressure reliefs did not comply with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP), such as API Recommended Practice 520

    API RP 520’s recommended guideline of 3% inlet pressure loss is not RAGAGEP for existing relief valve installations

    RAGAGEP is not a standard or code; it is a benchmark against which performance can be judged.There is no mandatory code that governs relief valve inlet pressure loss.

    OSHA believes there is a mandatory standard in the refining industry that prohibits inlet pressure loss exceeding 3% on existing relief valve installations. That is not legally or factually correct; there is no such legal obligation and it is not common refining industry practice to apply 3% to existing relief valves.

    Most refiners in the United States allow inlet pressure losses on existing relief valve installations in excess of 3% and up to 5%.

    OSHA is now requiring that BP must modify its relief systems beyond applicable industry standards.

    It appears that the terms of the 2005 Settlement of Agreement (SOA) have changed with the new administration and OSHA leadership of a new sheriff in town.

    There is no amount of money that will bring those workers who perished back. Yet at the same time there needs to be equitable balance in all this. Unfortunately, an opinion that OSHA and many do not agree on.

  • 6 Munro's Safety Apparel // Nov 4, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    It is good that she is doing this but it will take a great deal to make some businesses really pay attention. I think an $87 million dollar fine should stir things up though.

  • 7 DoctorH // Nov 6, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Looks like Hillary Clinton set Hilda Solis up for failure on that Honduras adventure. That’s quite a cheap shot from Hillary to evade responsibility for a role that completely belongs to the State Department. It seems like Hillary is now practicing political techniques pioneered by Dick Cheney. What’s next? Send Hilda to Iran to fix that labor, oops nuclear situation?

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