250180 Metropolis community at grave risk for hydrofluoric acid (HF) disaster: Experienced workers locked out

Monday, October 31, 2011: 9:15 AM

Michael Wright, MS , Health and Safety, United Steelworkers, Pittsburgh, PA
Anna Fendley, MPH , United Steelworkers, Pittsburth, PA
John Paul Smith , USW Local 669, Honeywell - Metropolis, Metropolis, IL
The United Steelworkers Local Union 7-669 has 230 members at the Honeywell plant in Metropolis, IL. The plant processes uranium and those at the plant work around many extremely dangerous and deadly chemicals including very large quantities of the highly hazardous hydrofluoric acid (HF). Union workers at the site have been locked out for 8 months related to a contract dispute. During the lockout Honeywell has replaced USW members at the plant with untrained workers. We will present information about how the lockout of the highly skilled union workforce has erased organizational capacity to prevent or respond to disasters endangering workers, the community and the environment. We will explain the importance of the support and protection of the union in reducing fears about raising health and safety issues with Honeywell, OSHA, NRC, and the EPA. The workforce in the plant during the lockout has no such union support and protection. As evidence of these issues we will detail a false alarm that set off a disaster siren, an explosion that shook the community, and a major HF release. When OSHA arrived for an inspection of the plant during the lockout both the international and local unions were denied their right to accompany inspectors. Since the lockout, production has slowed and railcars of hydrofluoric acid have backed up at the facility. A dangerous amount of full HF railcars have accumulated around the plant and government regulators have ordered Honeywell to secure them with armed guards.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Explain the potential health, safety and environmental impacts of a labor dispute that resulted in a worker lock-out at a facility that uses very large quantities of highly hazardous hydrofluoric acid (HF). Discuss the value of an experienced and highly-trained union workforce and the dangers of employing inexperienced replacement workers.

Keywords: Labor-Management Relations, Occupational Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to give this presentation because I worked on the Honeywell Metropolis campaign as a representative from the USW Health, Safety and Environmental department.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.