Is it Dangerous to Work in or Live Close to Industrial Sites?

By Connie Fabre, President & CEO, Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance (GBRIA)

Have you ever heard someone ask this question? Most people working in industry enjoy the prosperity that their jobs have brought to them and their families, however when people claim that industrial jobs are unsafe or that industry is harming our environment, some might wonder whether there is any merit to these claims. Although the vocal few speaking against industry can cause people to question, the data does not support their claims. 

When it comes to safe jobs, industrial plant, maintenance, and construction work fare better than working for many service jobs. The Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) number measures the number of people who sustain a non-fatal injury among 200,000 hours worked. In the U.S. in 2019 (the latest information available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), petroleum refiners averaged a 0.4, down from 0.7 in 2018, while manufacturing as a whole averaged 3.3. As a comparison, retailers averaged 3.4, hospitals 5.5, and state and local government 4.6. So, how does the petrochemical industry achieve such a good record? Sharing best practices, tackling common issues through associations and organizations such as ARSC, is a hallmark of this industry, however, it is each company and each employee’s attitude and focus on safety that makes the difference. Companies expend incredible resources to ensure that employees meet daily, complete Job Safety Analyses, Hazard Analyses, and training upon training in every aspect of hazards possible and how to avoid injury.  Companies have pep rallies for safety and are unrelenting in convincing employees to believe that “ZERO incidents” is an achievable goal.

The communities in which industrial facilities are located also fare well in health outcomes. For example, in looking at the 2020 County Health Rankings Key Findings Report1 it shows that often, overall health outcomes in industrial parishes fare better than rural parishes in Louisiana and Texas. Although I am no health scientist, I know that there are many factors contributing to cancer and overall health outcomes. I believe that the presence of industrial plants seems to have more positive effects on health than negative effects.

Remember our Industrial Hygienists? They are scientists and engineers committed to protecting the health and safety of people in the workplace and the community2. One of the duties of Industrial Hygienists at industrial facilities is to place monitoring equipment on employees at regular intervals to test for any chemicals that could cause a health issue. If plants were emitting amounts that caused problems for people, their own employees would be identified first. Don’t you think that if industrial employees, who go into plants every day for years upon years, were getting diseases at a rate greater than the general population, someone would have noticed? In fact, employee data has been used to identify problems, and industry has self-disclosed to protect others.  One could say that the communities on the fence lines of industrial facilities are protected by the thousands of employees, suppliers and contractors working inside industrial plants every day because the employees provide the data to show that exposure to what is being manufactured is safe. The fact that lower cancer rates are seen in counties/parishes that have significant numbers of industrial facilities located there 2,3 versus counties/parishes that are rural or simply heavily populated, should give pause to people critical of industry. 

In addition to providing good jobs, industrial companies do much to support and invest in the communities in which they locate. From whooping crane reintroduction to Certified Wildlife Habitats, and cattle and farming on plant property, the land and wildlife next to plants is thriving. Industrial companies sponsor many United Way and other charity programs, community health and wellness fairs, festivals, music groups, schools and much more as a means to ensure that people in their communities thrive as well.

Maybe it’s my “rose colored glasses” or the statistics I’m reading but it seems to me whether it’s health and wellness outcomes, sales and property taxes, or other factors that make a community thrive, the presence of industrial facilities seems to improve the quality of life, much to the chagrin of the vocal few who try to use false claims and fear to convince us otherwise.



GBRIA Golf Tournament, Gumbo Cook-off, and Vendor Showcase

Baton Rouge, November 6, 2020: The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance Inc. (GBRIA) is pleased to announce the results of this year’s Golf Tournament, Gumbo Cook-Off and Supplier Showcase.  184 golfers, 25 gumbo cook-off teams and 18 supplier booths, all enjoyed competing outside at Pelican Point Golf Club and River Parishes Community College.  The events were held to support GBRIA’s mission to add value to our communities by driving solutions to common issues with an emphasis on safety performance and workforce development.  Cal Ebey, Maintenance Manager at the ExxonMobil Plastics Plant, Stephen Hamilton, Plant Manager at the ExxonMobil Polyolefins plant and Kim Demarest, Director of Client Relations and Business Development at Gulf Coast Occupational Medicine chaired the event committee.

Congratulations to all of the winners and a huge thank you goes out to all of the participants.  In the Golf Tournament, the winners were:

Tie for 1st Place (-19/52): Chris Ripley, Bubba Bethea, Patrick Landry and Jason Wright,

Tie for 1st Place (-19/52): Rick Hagan, Adam Burns, Ryan Sykes, Chip Elliott

2nd Place (-18/53): Mike Firmin, Tim Achord, Gene Stephens, Terry Carter

3rd Place (-17/53): Brett Hughes, Jeff Hastings

The Best Food on the Course Award went to Process Service Specialists, who made Pineapple Bacon Sausage & Banana Pudding!

In the Gumbo Cook-Off, the 1st place winner was EcoRobotics, the 2nd place winner was Bengal Crane & Logistics and the 3rd place winner was Braun Intertec. The People’s Choice Award went to Premium Inspection & Testing.

Pictures of the event will be posted in the near future at  

End of Release

GBRIA Issues New Guidance for Preparing Industrial Workplaces, Employees and Contractors for COVID-19

Baton Rouge, LA, July 3, 2020:

The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, an association whose members are over 60 industrial sites, has issued a new guidance document for preparing industrial workplaces, employees, and contractors for COVID-19.  COVID-19 has impacted the nation and the Baton Rouge region profoundly and industrial sites in the area responded to the emergency in many ways.  Despite most facilities being critical infrastructure, required to continue producing during the Stay-at-Home order, plants responded by slowing some construction and maintenance that could be deferred safely.  In addition, non-essential employees were asked to work from home.

Over the last few months, the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance gathered the best experts in the industrial community from area facilities, contract maintenance and construction companies, medical and safety providers and held a series of workshops and listening meetings. Members and staff from the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Alliance Safety Council participated as well.  Brandon Smith, Associate Director of Safety, Health and Security for GBRIA explained that “we developed the guide through a series of meetings with plant managers, maintenance and safety managers and then a specific sub-committee was formed to compile all the great information shared by so many.”  The result is a very comprehensive and valuable document that not only covers government issued guidelines but also specific actions for industry. The new guide helps plants decrease the spread of COVID-19 by providing guidance in the areas of 1) Site Entry Requirements, 2) Performing Work, and 3) Social Distancing and Sanitization with several sub-categories under each area.

GBRIA Q2 2020 Economic Outlook Results – Industrial Capital Expenditure and Contractor Workforce Hit Hard by Covid-19 Response

BATON ROUGE, LA – April 22, 2020: The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, Inc. (GBRIA)’s survey of its members shows a drastic decrease in its expected capital expenditures and contract employment in the next six months. The survey is a forward looking index similar to an index the CEO’s of The Business Roundtable report.  Plant managers of 30 sites, or 50 percent of GBRIA members, weighed in on what they believe the next six months hold for their plants. The current GBRIA index result is 22, a significant decrease from previous quarters’ results. 

Facilities significantly reduced their workforce to limit contact among employees on site as a precaution to Covid-19. In addition, the decreasing oil prices negatively impacts production and demand of GBRIA members. 

 2020 Second Quarter Forecast 
Question Increase No Change Decrease Index 
How do you expect your plant’s production to change in the next 6 months?  10% 53% 37% 23 
How do you expect your company’s capital expenditures to change at your plant in the next 6 months?  13% 33% 53% 10 
How do you expect your plant’s COMPANY employment to change in the next 6 months?  13% 73% 13% 50 
How do you expect your company’s CONTRACT employment to change in the next 6 months?  10% 47% 43% 17 
2nd Quarter 2020 GBRIA Economic Index    22 

The Index value is calculated as a diffusion index centered on 50 and ranges from negative 50 to positive 150. Values over 50 predict an expanding economy and values below 50, a contracting economy.

End of Statement

GBRIA Recognizes High Schools, Post-Secondary Institutions and Contractors with Awards for Craft Workforce Development

BATON ROUGE, LA – Sept. 20, 2019: The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance, Inc. (GBRIA) is pleased to announce the recipients of awards presented at its 12th Annual Craft Workforce Development Awards Banquet held on September 19th at the Marriott Hotel in Baton Rouge, LA. Many high schools, high school educators, post-secondary institutions as well as skilled craft contracting companies and industrial facilities received awards. Tamara Brown, Director of Sustainability and Community Engagement at Praxair, and Tom Yura, Chief Operating Officer at Cornerstone Chemical, shared a few words as a keynote address. Approximately 400 guests attended the event.

The following awards were presented to high schools who were nominated by area contract firms: Cajun Industries, EXCEL, ISC Constructors, MMR Constructors, Trade Construction, Turner Industries, Performance Contractors, Westgate LLC and Worley; and by the industrial plant Occidental Chemical in Convent for demonstrating an outstanding job of implementing career and technical education classes related to construction.

In Division I Student-Body Size Category: West Feliciana High School received the Award of Excellence. Albany High School, Donaldsonville High School, Doyle High School, Holden High School, and Maurepas High School received Awards of Merit.

In the Division II Size; Broadmoor High School, Denham Springs High School, Central High School, and Live Oak High School received the Award of Excellence.

Plaquemine High School, the St. James Career & Technical Center and Zachary High School received Awards of Merit.

In the Division III Size: East Ascension High School and St. Amant High School received the Award of Excellence and Dutchtown High School received an Award of Merit.

One high school craft teacher from each high school division-size received the award of GBRIA High School Craft Workforce Development Champion. Dr. Paul Theriot, West Feliciana High School, received the award for Division I; Billy Doiron, Live Oak High School, received the award for Division II; and Mandy Delaune, St. Amant High School, received the award for Division III.

GBRIA then awarded Post-Secondary Institutions that were nominated by EXCEL, Excel Modular Scaffold, ISC, Performance Contractors, Turner Industries and Worley. Post-Secondary Institutions were divided into two categories: Technical Education and Continuing Education.

In the Post-Secondary Technical Education category, Baton Rouge Community College received the Award of Excellence. The Associated Builders & Contractors – Pelican Chapter and River Parishes Community College received Awards of Merit.

In the Post-Secondary Continuing Education category, LSU Digital and Continuing Education received the Award of Excellence. Alliance Safety Council received the Award of Merit.

Next, the award program recognized industrial construction and maintenance contract companies who demonstrated excellence investing in workforce development programs, which include all of the elements of an excellent program, which are: recruitment, assessment, training, career path development and retention of employees.

The plants that nominated contractors included: BASF, Dow, Eastman Chemical, ExxonMobil Baton Rouge, Honeywell, Occidental Chemical Convent, Occidental Chemical Geismar, REG, Shell Chemical, Shell Refining and W.R. Grace & Co.

The following companies received Craft Workforce Development awards. In the category of General Construction & Maintenance, in the Division I Size Category, Action Industries Inc. and Volks Constructors received Awards of Recognition. In the Division II Size Category, EXCEL received the Award of Excellence. Cajun Industries and Repcon received Awards of Merit. Primoris Services Corporation received an Award of Recognition. For the Division III Size Category, Brown & Root Industrial Services, Turner Industries Group, LLC and Worley earned the Award of
Excellence and the Award of Merit were presented to Performance Contractors and Zachry Group.

In the Civil and Structural Category, in the Division I Size, Barriere Construction Co. received the Award of Recognition. Deep South Crane and Rigging received the Award of Merit.

In the category of Specialty Trade (Soft Craft), in the Division I Size Category, NextGen Scaffold Services received the Award of Recognition. In the Division II Size Category, Excel Modular Scaffold & Leasing earned the Award of Merit.

In the category of Specialty Trade (Hard Craft), in the Division I Size Category, PALA Interstate LLC, Triad Electric & Controls and Westgate, LLC earned the Award of Merit. In the Division II Size Category, ISC Constructors received the Award of Excellence. In the Division III Size Category, MMR Group received the Award of Merit.

In the category of Technical Support, in the Division I Size Category, Clean Harbors and Premium Inspection & Testing Group received Awards of Recognition. In the Division II Size Category, Turner Specialty Services received the Award of Excellence. Acuren Inspections and Total Safety US received Awards of Recognition.

GBRIA also awarded three Best of Division Awards. GBRIA presented this award to a company that ranked best within its division. Deep South Crane and Rigging received the Best of Division I Award. Turner Specialty Services received the Best of Division II Award and Turner Industries Group received the Best of Division III Award.

GBRIA also presented prestigious individual awards to individuals who have exemplified qualities of leadership in workforce development. The following individuals were presented awards as GBRIA Craft Workforce Development Hall of Famers: Lane Grigsby, CEO of Cajun Industries and Eddie Rispone, CEO of ISC Constructors.

Lastly, the award of GBRIA Craft Workforce Development Most Valuable Plant was presented to BASF. BASF has taken 150 high school students through its BASF Tech Academy Program since 2015. This weeklong program, in partnership with RPCC, allows students to visualize a career pathway that starts in high school and finishes through community college or technical training programs. BASF also sponsored teachers an Externship Program, an immersive experience at BASF for teachers to learn about various career pathways.

This year’s GBRIA Craft Workforce Development Champion Most Valuable Player award was presented to Jennifer Garcia with Olin, for her outstanding volunteer efforts with GBRIA.

Pictures of the event will be posted on the Events tab of GBRIA’s website in Event Pictures Other links to the evening’s presentations and information on the awards can be found on the News tab.

Now is the time to SUPPORT investment, not fight it.

The news about Georgia Pacific’s Port Hudson facility was difficult to hear. Whenever a long-standing community supporter makes decisions like this, the loss affects company employees. It also results in a ripple impacting contractor and supplier jobs that are essential to making these facilities go.

Even with yesterday’s disappointing news, hundreds of our family members, neighbors and friends in the Capital Region can begin the next chapter of their working lives now. These new opportunities are available because companies are willing to invest in this area of Louisiana.

Within hours of yesterday’s news breaking, ExxonMobil contacted our organization to inform us that they are interested in considering some of the affected engineers and operators for positions at the company’s sites in East and West Baton Rouge parishes.  Yesterday, Dow Chemical announced that it is seeking applicants for a new apprenticeship program and there are many other projects underway in the area at facilities such as Methanex, Wanhau, and others in the region.

Companies, like ExxonMobil, need skilled professionals, because they want to invest more in the Capital Region. They are working with our community college and university systems to train more and more workers, who are building their careers at area facilities.

Alexander Graham Bell said, ‘When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.’ Now is the time for us to see the open doors and stop arguing about attracting investment to the Capital Region.

As a community, we need to embrace new investment, because it creates opportunity out of difficulty.

GBRIA is here to help and support in what way we can. We encourage affected employees, contractors and suppliers to contact us.

GBRIA Supports Move EBR Infrastructure Enhancement and Traffic Plan

The Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance (GBRIA), Inc. supports the half-cent sales tax for the MOVE EBR Infrastructure Enhancement and Traffic Mitigation Plan that will appear on the ballot on December 8th.

The program will begin on April 1, 2019, and continue for 30 years. Food and prescription drug purchases are exempt from the sales tax and funds will be dedicated only to projects included in an approved project list. These projects will include additional lane capacity, safety, and intersection improvements; upgrades to existing corridors; sidewalks, drainage, bike paths and landscaping; advanced traffic management systems; upgrades to existing signals with increased fiber connectivity and federally matched transportation dollars.

GBRIA believes infrastructure improvement is crucial to the community’s economic growth. Current traffic issues create problems within the industrial workforce as workers and shipment deliveries must factor time in traffic for regular commutes. Plants had to adjust shift schedules in order to combat issues with peak traffic times.

This program will create 2,980 new jobs, save drivers $249 annually and add $1.4 billion in value added to the economy. Visit for more information on the Move EBR program.

Updated ITEP Rules Are a Step in Making Louisiana More Competitive

Commerce & Industry Board approves multiple potential projects under revised ITEP rules, noting the level of competition Capital Region & Louisiana faces in attracting investment and new jobs.

Since Louisiana implemented changes to the Industrial Property Tax Exemption (ITEP) program in 2016, advance notices for projects dropped 35 percent as of this spring, and the number of planned jobs dropped by 61.5 percent by this same time.  This was in part because industrial property tax incentive rules were not clear.