WASHINGTON—The aftermath of an explosion at Goodyear's styrene-butadiene rubber plant in Houston that killed 31-year-employee Gloria McInnis has caught the attention of Capitol Hill.
McInnis was mistakenly accounted for following the June 11 explosion. Her body was discovered seven hours after the blast.
The victim's husband, Raymond McIn- nis, who is suing Goodyear for gross negligence, testified June 25 before the Transportation and Security and Infrastructure Protection subcommittee. The hearing was held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and used Gloria McInnis' story to focus on the government's homeland security approach to risk management, according to a news release issued by the congresswoman's office.
McInnis told the subcommittee of the events that transpired before he arrived at the scene and learned his wife had died. He listed several complaints about the way the facility is run, called the plant a “disaster ready to happen,” and declared Goodyear's workers are not currently safe.
“EMS crews are trained two days a year only,” he said. “The total number of employees has been cut. Contract workers who are unfamiliar with the plant have been hired in their place. Supervisors used to be experienced in all plant operations. Now, you can apply to be a supervisor after working at the plant for 90 days. Equipment is patched up again and again rather than replacing it with new equipment.”
In a prepared statement given to the subcommittee, Goodyear Vice President Joseph Copeland addressed the company's safety protocols, saying Goodyear works hard to eliminate injuries through its “No One Gets Hurt” safety initiative. The plan includes educating all employees about safety protocols and conducting drills to ensure that workers know what they are to do in case of an emergency, he said.
“The initiatives have been so successful that (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recordable incidents (meaning injuries of any type, large or small) at the Houston plant dropped from 67 in 2000 to just seven last year,” he said. “We have seen similar improvements companywide, and we have set even more aggressive goals to reduce workplace accidents and injuries.
“This is another reason why Mrs. McInnis' death and the injuries to the other workers are so devastating to the Goodyear family.”
The incident is being investigated by OSHA and internally investigated by Goodyear. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) called upon the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board to thoroughly investigate the matter. Green is the chairman of the Environment and Hazardous Materials subcommittee, which shares jurisdiction over the CSB.
“Our community won't settle for anything less than a thorough, independent investigation of an accident that cost human life,” Green said.
A three-member CSB team went to the Houston facility during the week of July 7 to investigate the operation and interview personnel, a CSB spokesman said.