The Plant Management Roundtable at the ChemInnovations Conference and Expo (September 25–26, Galveston, Tex.) offered attendees the opportunity to hear about what is on the minds of leaders of chemical process industries (CPI) plants. On the panel were Jon Manns, plant manager for Axiall Corp.’s Lake Charles facility, Stan Zisman, technical environmental, health and safety manager for Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. and Pete Greco, manager of emergency and security services and fire chief at Lyondell’s Houston Refinery. All three panelists focused on safety as being a top priority, as they discussed challenges that their sites are faced with and the methods being used to promote positive changes in safety culture. One of these methods involves encouraging people to “say something when they see something,” and empowering employees with “stop work authority,” so that any worker can stop a job if a potentially unsafe condition exists. Another method being pursued by a number of sites is to follow OSHA’s (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Admin.) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), which is a program that promotes effective worksite-based safety and health.
When the panel was asked what issues in addition to safety were on their minds, Manns said that what’s been keeping him up at night is anticipating the future challenge of finding qualified personnel to fill positions at his plant. There is currently a lot of industrial expansion in Southwest Louisiana, and throughout the U.S. largely due to the shale gas boom. While this is good news for the CPI, it also brings its share of challenges, such as workforce issues. The panelists concurred that this is an area of concern, and workers skilled in crafts, such as welding and others, are particularly tough to find.
One way to help the needs of the future workforce is to focus on the education system, and a number of CPI companies are doing this. Axiall Corp., for example, holds an Annual Teachers Institute at its Lake Charles facility. This program teaches the teachers, by providing educators first-hand knowledge about the operations of a chemical plant and the products manufactured there. In fact, Axiall won the 2013 ChemInnovations Community Service Award for its efforts with this program.
Getting back to the topic of safety, another award given at ChemInnovations was the Safety Investment Award, which honors a company’s commitment to safety. This award went to The Dow Chemical Company for its work on creating a laboratory safety program that reaches beyond the corporate boundaries to benefit the CPI as a whole. This safety program, the Dow Lab Safety Academy, includes a publicly available website (safety.dow.com), which houses dozens of accessible video tutorials on practical safety best practices.
Dow was also the recipient of the ChemInnovations Best Process Plant Facility Improvement Award. Faced with a problem involving a gage that required troubleshooting, the Texas Operations group took a far more pro-active approach than just correcting the problem. A series of pre-turnaround audits for additional units were conducted, and these actions served as a catalyst for raising awareness of gage safety at other plants.
These are just a few examples of the safety programs and community service programs that the CPI is involved in. Many more are underway. Knowing that so many people are working hard to address the challenges facing the CPI should help us all get to sleep just a little bit more easily.
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