Barab calls out energy production industry on safety

The "status quo" of safety is not working in the energy production industries, assistant OSHA administrator Jordan Barab told the Senate this week.

Testifying Thursday before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee’s Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, Barab said recent fatal catastrophic disasters -- such as the April Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and the 2005 Texas City refinery blast -- are "sounding an alarm about a major problem throughout the energy industries." Barab said OSHA, NIOSH and the Environmental Protection Agency will work together to develop a better system to target troubled worksites, and pushed for passage of the Protecting America's Workers Act (S. 1580).

Charles Drevna, president of the Washington-based National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, said safety was paramount in the industry and NPRA members do not value "production over protections." He called on OSHA to continue its collaborative work with the industry through the Voluntary Protection Programs, and said the agency's enforcement efforts should focus on operators with serious violations that are not taking the necessary steps to comply with safety regulations.

BP, which finds itself in the center of many safety-related questions in the industry, was invited but declined to attend the hearing, according to Subcommittee Chair Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

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