Chemical companies and refineries need to continue to invest in process safety and preventive maintenance, even as the economic downturn cuts into sales and profits, says John Bresland, chairmain of the Washington, D.C.-based Chemical Safety Board, in a recent video safety message.

The four-minute video message was released on YouTube.com and the text was posted on Blogger.com.

"My safety message for oil and chemical companies is clear: Even during economic downturns, spending for needed process safety measures must be maintained," Chairman Bresland said in the message. He noted that the CSB investigation of the 2005 Texas City refinery disaster linked the accident to corporate spending decisions in the 1990s, when low oil prices triggered cutbacks in maintenance, training and operator positions at the plant.

"Unfortunately, around the country, refinery accidents continue to be a concern," Bresland said, pointing to three major accidents that occurred at refineries in Texas in 2008, including a fire at a refinery in Tyler that fatally burned two workers and forced the refinery to shut down for months. "Today, as gasoline prices remain low, companies should weigh each decision to make sure that the safety of plant workers, contractors and communities is protected."

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