Safety Investment Protects Lives, Property, and Profit

March 1, 1998
SAFETY IS expensive initially, but well worth the investment when it saves lives, property, and money, said speakers representing transportation and chemical

SAFETY IS expensive initially, but well worth the investment when it saves lives, property, and money, said speakers representing transportation and chemical industries at the third annual Transportation and Distribution Conference in San Antonio, January 13-15.

"Safety is an integral part of a product's life cycle," said Raymond P Beaudry, DuPont manager, corporate emergency response and regulatory training. "Safety is not cheap, but it does have a positive aspect for the bottom line."

Beaudry and others participated in conference roundtable discussions entitled Safety as Good Business. The conference was sponsored by ChemicalWeek.

Preventing accidents leads to product delivery without complication, avoidance of expensive cleanups, and an improved public image. "Regulators, customers, and the public demand that we operate in a safe and responsible manner," Beaudry said. He recommended that companies become symbolically each other's conscience.

Safety Responsibility David Berg, director of EHS operating programs at GATX Terminals Corp, agreed that responsibilities lie with everyone involved in transportation and distribution operations. "You have to practice safety every day. You have to take steps to ensure that incidents don't happen," he said.

Most companies have safety programs to meet regulatory compliance, but some don't know if the programs are effective, he said. The situation calls for communication within the company, as well as externally, in order to eliminate or reduce risks.

Lack of communication can be a major factor in a program's failure, but can be overcome when everyone accepts responsibility as a fundamental value. The object is to integrate a shared vision of safety responsibility, Berg said.

A company's total acceptance of responsibility can enhance the bottom line because it acts as a catalyst, ensuring that regulations are met, workers are safe, assets are preserved, and liability is protected, he said. All of this comes from safety and health management programs that emphasize awareness and communication. Employees should endorse safety as a value, share the responsibility, and believe that accidents are preventable.

Safety Product Beaudry said safety is a product and as such can be presented like one. "Safety and emergency response have to be economical and value-added. They are marketable," he said.

Because of DuPont's well-known safety program, the company often is consulted by companies that suffer a crisis, he said. When a fire damaged a customer's plant, DuPont's team responded immediately and helped coordinate the recovery on site so that the customer was able to begin renovations within 13 days. Quick reaction is part of a safety program built into DuPont's business plans, which also stresses the value of safety to the customer, he said.

Berg said that training and safety operational practices are essential for companies to respond and work together when a crisis occurs.

Dennis J Ashworth, manager of hazardous materials transportation and emergency response at Chevron Chemical Company, said a joint emergency response drill in Holden, Louisiana, demonstrated the value of partnerships and alliances to improve safety.

Representatives from Chevron, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Louisiana State Police, St James Parish law enforcement and safety organizations, an emergency rescue contractor, and an explosives expert participated in the two-day drill. The $6,500 cost of the drill was funded by Chevron.

"I can't tell you how much we gained from this drill," Ashworth said. "It feels really good to know what we're doing correctly now in transportation safety," Ashworth said.

He offered a note of appreciation for Burlington Northern Santa Fe's preparedness for emergency situations and the interaction that occurred between the companies themselves, as well as between the companies and Louisiana state and local officials.

Risk Management Chevron included as part of the drill a risk management program because Chevron ships 3.6 billion pounds of hazardous material each year by truck, rail, and marine through the Louisiana Gulf Coast area, he said. In September 1996, the company conducted a risk study that prompted subsequent safety conferences, attended by companies interested in emergency response planning.

Before the October drill, a Baton Rouge workshop was presented by Chevron, Dupre Transport, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, National Marine Barge Co, and the Louisiana State Police. It drew an audience of officials from Kirby-Dixie Carriers, Service Transport, McKenzie Tank Lines, Trimac, Exxon Chemical, Entergy Corp, Dow Chemical, Pioneer Company, Georgia-Gulf, Avondale Industrie, and Witco Corp.

Also attending the workshop were public officials from Louisiana's St James, Livingston, Ascension, Jefferson, and Baton Rouge parishes. Local fire departments from Plaquemine, Garyville, and Buras were also at the meeting, according to Ashworth.

At the drill, a chemical spill simulation involving a rail car was used as the focus of the training, including a fire.

As a result of intensive preplanning, including tabletop drills, and the inclusion of various companies and community segments that would be involved in a chemical accident, many alliances and partnerships were established, Ashworth said.