LIMA — The Ohio House of Representatives Commerce & Labor Committee advanced a bill Tuesday that proponents say is aimed at increasing safety standards for oil refinery construction projects.
House Bill 235, the High-Hazard Training Certification Act, was advanced by the committee by a 10-1 vote, taking the bill to the full House of Representatives for a vote. According to the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, a proponent of the bill, this legislation would create a safer work environment for construction crews at refineries by requiring apprenticeship training and OSHA-recognized safety certifications to be in place for workers at the Cenovus Lima Refinery, the Toledo Refining Company refinery and the BP-Husky refinery, also in Toledo.
“The bill just sets minimum standards to ensure the safety of the workers and the safety of the community, as well,” Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mike Knisley said. “It’s minimal apprenticeship training and OSHA-recognized safety certifications for all construction workers, union and non-union. When a lot of the opponents of this bill spoke during testimony, they tried to frame this as a union bill when it’s not. It’s an industry safety bill.”
Opponents of the bill, however, see this as placing an undue limitation on the potential workforce for these projects, saying the bill would require 80 percent of workers hired to be enrolled in or graduated from a registered apprenticeship program. The Ohio Chemistry Technology Council published its concerns in April, writing that, “in many instances, this requirement would prohibit Ohio refineries from hiring the most qualified and safest workers for these contracts,” while instead providing a market advantage to the bill’s proponents, with many unions providing apprenticeships.
Cenovus Energy, the company that owns the Lima refinery, issued a statement to The Lima News echoing the OCTC’s concerns and defending its hiring practices.
“The petroleum refining industry has the lowest rate of injury and illness of 503 manufacturing sectors,” according to the Cenovus statement. “Government-imposed hiring quotas would make facilities less safe by preventing refineries from hiring the most qualified construction workers with the best-demonstrated safety records. Lima Refinery makes contractor decisions through a robust procurement model, selecting the contractor best positioned to deliver on quality and safety.”
Knisley countered by saying that any apprenticeship program, not just union ones, would qualify under this legislation. For he and other proponents of the bill, the risk to the community is too great to not have these standards in place.
“When those things go off, it can be catastrophic for the community,” he said. “We’ve had a long history of good owners (at the Lima refinery), and I don’t think it’s too much to ask them to protect the community.”
An aerial view shows the Lima Refinery on Wednesday evening. The Ohio House of Representatives is considering legislation regarding safety standards for refinery construction projects.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0391 or on Twitter @cmkelly419.
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