Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment

Fisherville, Ontario, Canada

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Vol. 10, No. 21, November 30, 2005

Organizational Paid Subscription



With this issue we introduce our first annual seasonal contest. Five readers will win one, and possibly two, boxes of Brazilian artisanal chocolates made from Amazon fruit and nuts. Scroll (or read) through this issues articles to find contest instructions. Talking of contests, we also announce our panel of judges for the 2005 Eco-Councillor contest.

Our theme this issue is occupational health and safety, from an environment and Sustainable Development perspective. Occupational health managers address the environmental and social conditions inside a plant while environmental managers address environmental and social conditions outside the plant. In many ways the disciplines, often placed by government and industry in different departments, are truly two sides of the same coin. We look at what others are saying and doing about those conditions inside the plant that may have an impact on the community surrounding it. Our review ranges from child labour to the environmental claims of the unions which left the AFL-CIO this summer. We provide you with information such as there were apparently nine people who died in accidents in US oil refineries in 2002 and 2003 but there was not one refinery death. Health and Safety is such a large field that we have only begun to scratch the surface of some current issues. We hope you find our review interesting.

This issue we include three very interesting Letters to the Editor, two of them in response to our clean coal feature last issue. We look at Saskatchewan's Green Strategy and the brief visit of Hunter Lovins to the province; we listen as Tom Hanks presents Earth calling America and points us towards the exits; we visit Toronto's (Canada's?) Royal Winter Fair and look at it from a green perspective (it is mostly brown, with a couple of stand out exceptions), and we look at how to measure a fish before purchase. Our organizational subscribers also receive our monthly Sustainable Technologies and Services Supplement with more news for the greener business community.

As we go to press, the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is getting underway in Montreal with thousands of scientists, policy experts, and lobbyists all trying to have impact on the climate change agenda. The United States will be there because the MOP 1 coincides with the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a convention which they have ratified, and there are already grumblings from south of the border that mixing COP 11 and MOP 1 will make life complicated for them. They are also grumbling that they are not getting credit for the steps they are taking to combat climate change, steps that are somewhat more aggressive than the steps that Canada has taken to date. While we expect to hear more, and will report, on what they have done, the fact is that very few countries have done enough to reverse rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. We would like to think that calling a federal election during the Kyoto conference would help to make climate change an important election issue but we doubt that it will. It is more likely to show our international visitors what a bunch of buffoons we have in Ottawa, especially in the two parties that claim to be most committed to action on climate change. If an election is called, one of our two January issues will analyze the environment and Sustainable Development records and promises of all five parties!

Next issue our theme may be one of two topics: the Montreal Kyoto COP, if anything interesting emerges, or an update on the environmental performance of packaging. Be warned: we wrap our Christmas gifts to friends and family in old newspaper. Our one compromise is to use the colour comics section.





Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment

Monthly Sustainable Technology & Services Supplement

November 2005



Ottawa Clean Air Conference

Urgent Recommendations for BP

Ocean Going Hormone Disruptors

Information Technology for Environmental Benefits

Environmentally Sound Technology Showcase

Phosphorus Removal from Stormwater

Clean-up Fund Paid for by Industry






Worker behaviours are commonly identified by companies as causes for occupational and environmental failures. Don Holstrom, lead investigator of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, said that in the case of the BP refinery accident on March 23 in Texas City, Texas, the causes were much higher up the corporate ladder. Fifteen workers were killed and 170 injured. The BP Texas City oil refinery has been shut down since the accident, representing 3% of the US capacity.

            BP Sets up Independent Panel

The US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board regarded the situation so urgent and serious that it recommended BP set up an independent panel. The work of the panel is expected to improve the safety of all workers in the oil and chemical industries, both in the US and internationally. The company appointed former US Secretary of State James A. Baker of Houston to chair the panel which will make recommendations for improvement of safety management systems and corporate safety culture at BP Products North America, Inc., the subsidiary responsible for the company's U.S. refining operations, some of which have been added to BP through recent mergers.

            Management and Process the Root Cause

The Board made the urgent call even before its investigation, expected to take another year, is completed after its investigators, "uncovered evidence of serious management problems at the Texas City refinery.... systemic issues of management culture and oversight that are not localized to one site. These management problems set the stage for catastrophic and tragic incident. ...this incident was completely preventable." It is the first recommendation designated urgent since the Board was formed eight years ago.

Among the findings of the lead investigator, Don Holmstrom, were:

• Safety cannot be achieved on the shop floor but requires the support of the highest level of management and corporate board.

• Good procedures are not enough. A good safety culture requires effective programs, decision making and accountability at all levels.

• The commonly held belief that safety culture can be improved though modifying unsafe worker behaviour is wrong. Human errors contribute, as they did in this case, but are not the root cause. The root cause are the decisions taken by managers of the facility and corporate level a number of years ago.

• Executives think they are conveying a message of safety first but there is often a gap in what actually happens on the ground.

• Constant measurement and improvement is part of a good culture otherwise managers make flawed safety decisions, find there are no serious repercussions, get rewarded for increasing production and come to believe that unsafe is safe, known as "normalization of abnormalities" until catastrophe happens.

• Operational decisions which may not be directly under safety procedures affect safety. Examples are fatigue (workers at BP worked for 30 days at 12 hours a day), downsizing of supervisions and training (BP had 38 trainers in 1998 and only 9 in 2005), workload management (at BP on the day of the explosion, one operator was in charge of three very complex and different units) and management of obsolete equipment (the problem technology was already considered unsafe in its original design but it was rebuilt in the 1990s)

Holmstrom asked the panel to examine "why BP evidently allowed serious deviations from good safety practice to exist and to persist..[and to] recommend any needed changes to BP's governance, structure, management systems, and organizational culture so that these facilities are safer in the future."

            Relation to Corporate Social Responsibility

BP, based in the UK, is on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and positions itself as a leader in corporate sustainability One of the questions that is raised is how and whether the parent company meets higher standards than its subsidiaries.

Merritt, Carolyn W. Chairman & CEO, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. Statement for the BP Independent Safety Review Panel. Houston, Texas: US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, November 10, 2005. [2009-11 Update link changed to The CSB released both the investigations report and the safety review report in 2007. Links to these are at]

BP Global. Former U.S. Secretary of State James A Baker, III to Chair Independent Safety Review Panel. Press. Houston, Texas: October 24, 2005.



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