Industry officials say practices in place to protect workers from coronavirus

Workers in the petrochemical industry worry that they could be infected with COVID-19 at work while in close quarters being bused or at lunch.
Updated: Mar. 24, 2020 at 8:50 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -Some refinery and chemical plant workers in our area worry whether they could become infected with the coronavirus at their jobs.

From Hackberry to Lake Charles, workers in the petrochemical industry have expressed worries that they could become infected with the coronavirus at work. Some have complained of being in close quarters when put into buses to job sites and have sent pictures. Others worry about the distance between workers during lunch breaks. All who contacted KPLC were afraid to appear on camera or go to management with concerns for fear of retaliation or firing.

We have made industry leaders aware of these concerns.

Kim Cusimano, a spokesperson for Sasol, says their workers can raise concerns without fear.

“We have several mechanisms that we communicate internally, anonymous mechanisms by which our employees can communicate through to get concerns to leadership without any names attached. We would propose that. Also speaking directly with their supervisor, they will not be reprimanded in any way for speaking up. We have a site wide see something, say something campaign," said Cusimano.

And she says other measures are in place and continually reevaluated and checked to protect workers during this time.

“We’re working with our contractors and service providers on our site, specifically our Lake Charles Chemicals project construction site, to confirm that these measures are implemented consistently across our work group,” she said.

Obviously, workers would rather be safe at home with their families as some employees are able to do.

Jim Rock, with the Lake Area Industry Alliance, says the local plants need to continue to safely produce products needed to recover from the pandemic.

He says the local plants have implemented many new practices to protect their workforce and contractors from social distancing to cleaning and disinfecting.

Here are specifics of what Rock says plants have implemented:

Chemical facilities in SW Louisiana are sharing and implementing industry best practices focused on employee health and safety, including:


• Maintaining social distancing protocols in the management of shift changes, operations rounds and maintenance activities to eliminate or minimize any contact among individuals

• Evaluating and prioritizing activities at each operating location

• Directing non-essential personnel to work remotely

• Cancelling any large-scale employee gatherings

Control Room Protocols:

• Isolating control rooms as much as possible

• Implementing preventive measures in control rooms to limit person-to-person contact, such as:

• Day shift personnel are not to enter the control rooms

• Contractors and maintenance workers are not to enter the control rooms

• Preventive measures to limit person-to-person contact

Site Entry & Access:

• Screening employees, contractors and visitors on site, including:

• Temperature scans of all who enter the site

• Questionnaire regarding travel and risk exposure

• Requiring of all employees to self-report temperature daily before coming to work

• Limiting site access to direct production and maintenance personnel only

Cleaning and Disinfection:

• Disinfecting and cleaning control room surfaces, kitchens and break rooms during and at the end of each shift, with additional emphasis on high touch surfaces

• Posting and distributing CDC-recommended actions, including health checklist and self-quarantine guidelines, to employees and contractors to reduce exposure

• Educating employees on best personal, work and household practices to prevent the spread of infection, including additional hand washing, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and the proper notification protocols in case employees or family members are sick


• Executing emergency preparedness plans similar to those in effect for hurricane and extreme weather events

• Reviewing and managing product inventories, feed stocks, spare parts and supplies for potential supply chain disruption

• Evaluating and enhancing IT network to facilitate telework connectivity, access and security for all employees

The Louisiana Chemical Association has also issued a news release saying what members are doing to protect workers.

Dept. of Health website will be updated at noon once a day

Essential state functions shall continue: visit gov website to see the list

For additional information on the COVID-19 crisis visit the CDC or the World Health Organization.

There is help if you are having trouble managing anxiety and stress associated with the coronavirus.

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