Improving Health and Safety for Refinery Workers and Local Residents Near Facilities

Funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, LOSH launched “Safe Workers Safe Communities” in July 2015, a new initiative to improve health and safety for refinery workers and residents living adjacent to refineries, ports, and chemical facilities in Southern California.

The Chevron Richmond oil refinery fire in August, 2012, and an explosion at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance in February, 2015, brought media and government attention to the potential impact of hazmat emergencies on surrounding communities. The incidents also tapped into more longstanding concerns among residents living near refineries and chemical facilities in both Northern and Southern California about the health consequences of cumulative exposures to ongoing emissions.

LOSH is working with the UC Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) to target training to refinery workers and residents near large refinery facilities in the communities of Richmond, Wilmington, and Carson. Training focuses on the refining process, the potential hazards refineries pose to both workers and residents, and the importance of emergency preparedness and information exchange. The training has also addressed the role participants can play in recent statewide initiatives to update OSHA and EPA standards to improve process safety and emergency response plans.

Partners under the Safe Worker Safe Communities initiative in Southern California include the United Steelworkers and Communities for a Better Environment.

Through these efforts, LOSH has created a pilot curriculum to empower refinery workers, community members, and leaders from environmental justice organizations to work together towards creating a healthier and safer refinery climate. The curriculum aims to become an example of how California can lead the nation in best practices to improve refinery safety.