Six-letter word underscores safety precedence at Motiva terminal

Nov. 1, 2007
Safety is more than a six-letter word at the Sewaren, New Jersey, storage and terminaling facility owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC. It is a challenge

Safety is more than a six-letter word at the Sewaren, New Jersey, storage and terminaling facility owned by Motiva Enterprises LLC. It is a challenge that earned the 175-acre plant a 2007 Independent Liquid Terminals Association (ILTA) Platinum Safety Excellence Award.

ILTA initiated the safety award this year and made the presentations at its annual conference and trade show in June in Houston, Texas. Motiva took home the top award in the small terminal category on the basis of a safety record of less than one injury per 100 workers in 2006. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was used to calculate the entrants' performances.

Ralph Otis, the New Jersey complex manager, gives credit for the terminal's safety record to terminal employee dedication to the program and the initial training by the company's plant safety personnel. He points out that the terminal operates with 70 Motiva employees, and on any given day there may be 50 contractors on site, all of whom must be committed to the safety philosophy.

“Our employees are expected to have a sense of ownership in their personal safety, as well as the safety of their co-workers,” says Otis. “Their participation and contribution to our program has resulted in an excellent safety performance.”

With a constant emphasis placed on safety awareness, employees are less likely to become complacent, says James Lintz, New Jersey complex operations manager. “It is essential for everyone to stay current with the safety processes that are involved with all the products we are handling,” he adds.

Product lineup

That product lineup includes gasoline, diesel, ethanol, jet fuel, and fuel oil. Biodiesel will soon be added to the list. Almost two years ago, the terminal began distilling transmix on site, which required more safety emphasis. That was one of the times when the refinery employees stepped in to familiarize terminal employees with procedures.

Storage for all products at the terminal adds up to 5.2 million barrels. The tank farm stretches across 175 acres of property on the Arthur Kill tidal strait with the New York City skyline just visible in the distance.

Although always conscious of safety requirements, several years ago the terminal began losing long-time employees to retirement, which meant that new hires would have to meet stringent safety practices that had become part of the terminal's culture.

“Typically, applicants have no prior terminal experience,” says Lintz. “We train the new hires until we know they are qualified.”

Prospective employees go through background checks and are administered drug tests. They take written examinations that determine their mechanical and cognitive skills, and are interviewed by at least six Motiva employees and sometimes as many as nine. Once hired, they attend classroom training for at least four weeks and receive a minimum of 180 days of hands-on training.

Safety instruction includes sessions on confined space entry, personal protection equipment, lock out/tag out measures, and product contamination prevention. Depending on job assignment, new hires will undergo loading and unloading training at the various transportation racks — truck, ship/barge, and rail. In four to six weeks, the new hires are retested, their records reviewed, and more training administered, if deemed necessary.

“In addition to all that, we cover many other topics such as jet handling, product measurement, and even ergonomics,” says Otis. “Eventually, plant employees will be rotated into other jobs, which is another way we try to avoid complacency. It can take years to rotate through all of the sections. We are fortunate now to have a low employee turnover rate, so our workforce is stable.”

Otis points out that contractor safety and environmental respect is as important to the company as if they were employees. “We share the same workplace,” he says. “We must have the same attitude toward health, safety, security, and the environment to keep our philosophy intact,” he says.

Safety orientation

To this end, contractor employees undergo safety orientation before starting to work at the terminal. Contractor records are reviewed to see if they meet the terminal standard. In addition to the safety orientation meeting, a pre-job safety meeting is held prior to every work project in the terminal. Contractors also attend a monthly safety meeting hosted by the complex. The program also calls for a formal post-job review of the job to determine if all safety and security objectives were met.

A big part of the safety program is a four-member Safety Committee that developed a facility safety plan and continues to tweak it each year. One outcome of that was the development of a Health, Safety, Environmental, and Security Philosophy (HSE&S) Team composed of management, supervisory personnel, and hourly employees.

“The HSE&S team meets once a month,” says Otis. “Its primary focus is proactive initiatives that are designed to keep safety and environmental integrity in the forefront of each employee and contractor.”

What employees see as they perform their jobs at the terminal are tank trucks lining up to be filled at the loading racks, barges and ships docking at piers to deliver fuels, and railcars arriving to be unloaded on the 40-car spot. Pipelines also transport product to the facility.

“We have about 350,000 barrels of product moving around in the terminal at just about any time,” says Otis.

Ever-vigilant

With all that activity, it's easy to see why the terminal operates with an ever-vigilant safety program. Forming the HSE&S Committee has proved successful for meeting the demands, says Otis. He credits the success to employee active participation in training sessions that are a direct outcome of the committee.

In addition, each year employees step up to the plate and agree to lead monthly safety sessions. Each employee is in charge of four sessions in the month that are held throughout the New Jersey complex so that all employees can attend once a month. The session leaders are given the leeway of choosing subjects and the mode of their presentation.

“They have a year to prepare,” Otis points out. “We challenge them to come up with ideas on any subject. The sessions have been excellent and have covered topics that we might not even have considered. These are people who see the work first-hand. The presenters have chosen many different ways to get their points across. Sometimes they bring in others for the presentations, and at other times they handle the presentation themselves.”

In addition to the safety sessions, the HSE&S Team developed a monetary incentive to reward success. It also generated a newsletter, developed safety and security audits, and fashioned safety promotions for signs and banners. The team designed incident reports that go to all employees and created a performance scorecard.

Safety incentives include a $1 per day bonus to all employees and in-house contractors for every incident-free month. All employees and in-house contractors receive a $100 gift card if there are no spills to water in a year. The company also encourages near-miss reporting, which can be safety, environmental, or security related and are not limited to the workplace.

Terminal services

The overall safety program complements the services offered at the terminal, which continues to expand. A construction project currently is underway to expand the rail siding to accommodate additional railcars, spurred by the growth in ethanol distribution. Norfolk Southern Railway Co and CSX Corp provide rail service while Conrail Corp handles switching. About 100 railcars are unloaded daily at the terminal.

At the truck racks, tank trailers are loaded at 600 gallons per minute, a rate that allows the facility to process about 150 trucks a day each for gasoline, distillates, and ethanol.

Two piers on the Arthur Kill tidal strait, one 800-foot and the other 600-foot, handle about 1,000 vessels annually. Barges are tethered in shallow slips inside the piers while ships can dock in deep water on the other side.

Managers at the terminal are always looking for ways to expand services, one of which led to the transmix (various fuels that have been co-mingled) processing unit, built in 2004 as a way to convert transmix into usable products. The unit heats transmix to 600°F where the product separates into naphtha and a heavy oil similar to diesel.

With all the different processes going on in the terminal, it was necessary to install alarms that issue certain sounds for each product. Should an incident occur, employees know exactly and immediately what product is involved. All employees are issued two-way radios for communication. “We even have a person who serves as the building warden to oversee evacuation, should that become necessary,” says Otis.

New program

Even with all the precautions in place, the terminal isn't resting on its laurels. More recently, a new program, Business Improvement Challenge, has been designed to increase the opportunity employees have to participate and contribute to the facility's safety program, as well as the overall business process.

“The New Jersey complex has had incredible improvement over the past years,” says Otis. “This challenge is designed to help us move to an even higher performance level. Each of us sees daily opportunities to improve our business process. The key is for each of us to identify and communicate the opportunities.”

Employees are divided into work groups and asked to submit at least two challenges per quarter that will be reviewed to determine if it is an opportunity to add value to the terminal's overall performance. If so, it will be applied, and the work group members will be awarded a $50 gift card for their efforts.

And so the terminal moves forward with that six-letter word, safety, at the forefront of the operation. Meanwhile, the challenge remains in place for all to continue to mirror the success that brought the facility the ILTA honor in 2007.