Health, Safety Personnel and Local Leaders Urge Bipartisan Action to Pass Refinery Safety Bill

Saint Paul, MN - Today, health and safety personnel with previous experience working at Minnesota refineries called on the Minnesota Legislature to pass the Refinery Safety Bill (HF984/SF634), also known as the Safe and Skilled Workforce Act.

A link to view the full press conference is here.

“Of all of the hazards and dangers for the families I represent, I put Marathon Refinery at the top of the list,” said Dakota County Commissioner Joe Atkins.

“In my community, concern over refinery safety is growing,” said Newport City Councilmember Kevin Chapdelaine. “I am very concerned that Marathon has put profits ahead of safety.”

“Oil refineries are high-hazard facilities,” said Ben Weideman, former Health, Safety & Environmental Manager at Flint Hills Pine Bend Refinery. “It is easy to spot workers that are trained in an apprenticeship program and those who are not. Refineries that work with contractors that don’t require an apprenticeship level training are taking a step backward from the progress we’ve made throughout my career.”

“I love my job, but I and many of my coworkers are worried about the decline in safety and training standards at our facility,” said Matt Foss, Fire Mechanic and Rescue Squad Lieutenant at St. Paul Park Refinery. “I have frequently run into contractors from Texas and Louisiana that don’t know how to use a Minnesota fire hydrant. Their lack of training is breathtaking.”

“One example is that contractors completely ignored the danger tape that we place in high hazard areas,” said Katty Jacobson, who worked at St. Paul Park Refinery as a Pipefitter Superintendent. “It is terrifying to me to think about what could have happened. Hopefully this bill will get passed so that nothing does.”

“Today, we are here to strongly support the Safe and Skilled Workforce Act,” said Harry Melander, President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. “This act will strengthen workforce safety at high-hazard facilities by requiring contractors to employ a qualified workforce. A workforce trained through a registered apprenticeship program or equivalent process.”

“Apprenticeship is the gold standard for training in the construction industry,” said Jason George, the business manager for the Operating Engineers Local 49. “Apprenticeship programs have bipartisan support. Apprenticeship programs are a bipartisan solution that will keep workers and surrounding communities safe.”

Over the past two years, Marathon’s St. Paul Park Refinery replaced skilled local maintenance workers with out-of-state workers, who make as little as $15 an hour and apparently lacked adequate training. Since local trades were replaced, workers inside the facility have reported numerous safety errors, including incidents that they say caused fires or could have triggered explosions.