Issue Date: June 30, 2014
Safety Board Chief In The Crosshairs
After congressional Republicans called for his resignation, the head of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has begun implementing recommendations for improving how the board operates.
CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said last week he would quickly adopt managerial modifications to improve the interactions among board members and strengthen their relationships with CSB staff. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) had proposed those changes a month ago. CSB has already taken steps to implement them, Moure-Eraso told C&EN.
His announcement came a week after Republicans in the House of Representatives said Moure-Eraso should quit.
“I really believe it is time for you to go,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, at a turbulent, two-hour committee hearing on June 19. Moure-Eraso, who has served on CSB for four years, found little congressional support at the hearing.
An 84-page report by Issa’s committee staff, which was released at the hearing, describes “serious management deficiencies” at CSB and concludes that a leadership change is “imperative.” Most of its criticism pertains to delayed reports on industrial accidents and disputes among board members and CSB staff, which the report blames on Moure-Eraso and top managers.
The report characterizes CSB as inefficient and badly managed with a “toxic” work environment. It includes allegations by unnamed staff members that Moure-Eraso’s leadership is “bullying” and “abusive.”
Moure-Eraso is adamant that he will not resign and said he is disappointed in the hearing’s focus. “It did not examine what we are about, the quality of our reports, or whether we have been an agent of change in the chemical industry,” he told C&EN. “That surprised me.”
The board has traveled a difficult path since it was created in 1990. Unfunded for nearly a decade, CSB has rarely had a full complement of five board members. Its small budget has been flat, yet its 40 staff members are tasked with finding the root cause of potentially hundreds of chemical-related accidents each year.
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