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During the past decade, oil refineries in Wyoming have leaked, sprayed silica catalyst and billowed poisonous orange clouds over neighborhoods.

In addition, there have been fires, which have injured at least seven Wyoming workers.

That all has to change.

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That is why this past Tuesday, representatives from all five of Wyoming’s refining companies went to Casper to meet with Gov. Matt Mead, his staff and officials from Wyoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with a plan to form an industry alliance to improve workplace safety at the state’s refineries.

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In keeping with Wyoming’s approach to safety and the oil and gas, mining and construction industries, the refining industry alliance would be a voluntary effort bolstered by support from the state that would identify safety challenges, set best practices, work with Wyoming OSHA in a consultation capacity rather than rely on tougher corrective and punitive actions.

“It will be your organization. … All I’m saying is we are here to offer any help, whether its data we can share or whatever. We’re not here to tell you what to do,” said former judge Gary Hartman, policy advisor to Gov. Mead.

This voluntary approach was the genesis of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance (WOGISA).

“I found your investigators were really professional and their focus was to help us, and not just there for a gotcha (investigation). … So we’re really interested in a partnership with OSHA,” Silver Eagle Refining Inc.’s general manager Jerry Lockie told one OSHA official Tuesday.

Lockie added after dealing with some serious issues at the refinery, management is committed to “completely revamp” the culture of safety at the refinery.

“I’m encouraged that they are eager to get on board with this,” Mead said.

Even before any real collaboration began, the group of refining officials identified two main safety challenges; power outages are too frequent, and Wyoming OSHA is lacking in consultation personnel specializing in “process safety management.”

“If there’s anything we can do to help you (Mead’s staff) to get more (process safety management resources), we’ll help,” one refinery official promised.

Just this past weekend the refinery at Sinclair reported two accidents, including one that sent one worker to the hospital.

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