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Clyde Trombettas

District Manager, Cal/OSHA Northern California Process Safety Management District Office

Heard of any California refinery fatalities lately? No? That's because of Cal/OSHA's respected Process Safety Management program, and Trombettas' leadership in keeping oil, chemical and other hazardous installations on the right track Clyde Trombettas

Resume: Trombettas has held his current position since 2005. Prior to that he was an associate safety engineer for Cal/OSHA beginning in 2001. From 1998-2001 he was CEO and general manager of M.E.T.S., Inc., the safety consulting company in Concord. He worked for Tosco Refining Co. in Rodeo as a contractor safety coordinator and for Unocal Oil Refinery in Rodeo as a fire and safety inspector from 1981-1997.

Schools:  He holds a bachelor’s degree in law studies from St. Mary’s College with a specialty in environmental law.

Certifications/Designations:  He was certified as a paralegal in the St. Mary’s College program. Trombettas is also certified as a field instructor in industrial firefighting, confined-space rescue and high-angle rescue from the University of Nevada, Reno. He also has certification as a field instructor in hazardous-waste operations from the University of Texas at A&M and a hazardous-materials management certificate from U.C. Berkeley Extension.

Boards: Trombettas serves as environmental health appointee to Contra Costa County Public Environmental Health Advisory Board.

Favorite Book: “Where Have All the Leaders Gone,” by Lee Iacocca

Favorite Quote:  “Sometimes, you need to cross that line. It’s just a matter of how far.”

  Q&A  

The answers to the questions below are Trombettas’ own thoughts and opinions, and in no way are a representation of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).                                            

 

What are the top issues in California occupational safety and health today?

It would depend on the industry in which the safety professional/regulator is working. For me, and the industry I regulate, oil field health and safety is gaining attention. Much of the new technology for extracting oil out of the ground; i.e., hydraulic fracking poses unique hazards that need to be evaluated.

 

Injury and illness rates continue to decrease, with some exceptions. What's the next great leap forward in occupational safety and health?

Education. Small businesses are the backbone of California and the country. Unfortunately, small-business owners have a difficult time keeping up with and understanding regulatory changes impacting their respective workforces. I was once told by an employer that “Cal/OSHA Consultation is the best-kept secret in California.” That’s a shame, since the Consultation Unit has well-trained, experienced professionals committed to assisting small business. Equally unfortunate is the fact that they do not have the funding or staffing to accomplish their mission.

 

One group -- Hispanics/Latinos -- suffers a disproportionate number of injuries and illnesses. Why? How should California address this problem?

In my personal opinion, migrant farmworkers are the backbone of California’s agricultural economy. Despite farm labor laws, workers are still subject to sub-minimum wages and dangerous working conditions. Piecework is one of the most antiquated and dangerous ways to earn a living. Minimum-wage law guarantees a worker two breaks. Piecework encourages workers to forgo breaks even in times of an extreme working environment such as high heat in order to earn a decent wage.

 

The Injury and Illness Prevention Program is the basic safety requirement for California employers. Now Fed-OSHA is working toward adopting its version of this requirement. Does the California IIPP standard need revision or is it fine the way it is? And if it needs revision, how so?

I believe California’s Injury & Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) regulation is an effective tool that, when complied with, improves workplace safety and health, promotes employee morale, increases productivity, and reduces costs associated with injury or illness. I think it is effective as currently written.

 

If you could change anything about Cal/OSHA, what would it be?

                a. Should enforcement be increased?

                b. Communications

                c. Training for inspectors

  • There are more than 17 million workers in California. The total number of active  inspectors currently enforcing health and  safety regulation is approximately 158. The present ratio of 92,080 workers per safety inspector in California is wholly inadequate. YES, enforcement should be increased.
  • There can always be an improvement in communication. A successful and effective health and safety program requires good communication among employees, employers and Cal/OSHA. Communicating does not seem to be the key issue. Rather, I submit that an improvement in listening should remove more attention.
  • In the past two years, educating inspectors has been a top priority. Not only are they receiving training in Cal/OSHA’s core curriculum, they are starting to receive more specialized training in such subjects as heat illness, evidence collection, oil rigs, hydraulic fracking, wind and solar energy-related health and safety issues.

 

Some observers say injury and illness rates are higher than they appear because employers find ways to hide injuries, or not record them. Do you agree this is a serious problem and if so, how should it be addressed?

I agree that injury and illness rates are higher than they appear because employers find ways to hide injuries, but I believe this is becoming less true as employees, fire departments and ambulance companies increasingly are reporting workplace injuries.

 

California  has a long history of crafting groundbreaking regulations that the rest of the country eventually picks up. What's the next one?

Currently, a complete revision of the Oil Drilling & Production regulations in T8 Subchapter 14 is under way. Some of these obsolete regulations are more than 50 years old.

 

Will AB 2774 resolve the problems cited by DOSH on serious violations and provide a more equitable appeals system? If not, how should it be reformed?

I believe one of the greatest tools of AB2774 is that it encourages communication between the employer and the inspector. I have witnessed the benefits of AB2774.

 

Should DOSH approach enforcement with more of an eye toward achieving compliance, rather than looking for violations to cite? And if so, would such an approach work?

Since I have worked both in the private and now public sectors, I believe I come at this with a broader view. For the most part, I would say inspectors do both. I believe it really depends on the individual employer’s actions.

 

What should Cal/OSHA do to help small employers create safe workplaces and comply with Title 8 regulations?

Publicize the available assistance and success of the Consultation Unit. Then increase their staffing.

 

What about safety do employers struggle with the most?

In my view, documentation.

 

Are there reliable and knowledgeable training people available?

Yes and no. Any employer should check out the resumes and, most important, the references of any safety trainer. I have had experience with both good and bad safety consultants. The employer is on the hook either way.

 

What kind of training is the most crucial for employers to provide?

Simply put, effective training on whatever hazards an employee may encounter on the job. A conscientious employer knows that the safety regulations are a minimum standard to follow. Such employers go above and beyond the basic requirements to protect their workforce.

If you’re interested in which employers would go to the trouble, take a look at Consultation’s VPP list at the Consultation website. These employers are the gold standard when it comes to training employees.

 

What else do you read to get your occupational safety and health information?

The Internet is a great source of information. Employers have relatively easy access to newsletters, industry organizations, blogs, etc. The world is at one’s fingertips.

 

How did you get started in safety? Was there any particular experience in your career that triggered your interest in safety? What’s interesting about it? What’s interesting about it now?

In 1981 at age 18, I began working at a refinery in its bottle washing room (part of the laboratory). This crusty old man who was the fire chief at the time came to me on a Thursday afternoon and asked if I had worked for the Red Cross teaching CPR and Advanced First Aid. I said I had and he said, “Okay, kid. On Monday report to the fire department. You’re going to learn to be a fire inspector. Oh, and you need to recertify all the inspectors in the fire department in CPR and advanced first aid.” I owe that crusty old man a profound debt for my career in safety.

With new industries and technology come new challenges in health and safety. For me, the refining industry, both up- and downstream, has remained a fascinating field.

 

What’s interesting about it now?

Hydraulic fracking. This is a controversial technology that some believe can have a positive impact on our future energy needs. The health and safety challenges posed by this and other oil production technologies require the attention of both industry and the regulatory community.

 

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