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RELEASE: Minnesota House approves Rep. Lislegard bill improving safety at oil refineries

Monday, April 24, 2023

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed SF 10, a bill to improve training requirements for workers employed by contractors at oil refineries. The legislation – which passed on a vote of 83-46 – would require a certain percentage of employees of the contractors to have registered apprenticeship-level training or five years of equivalent experience.

“At its core, this bill is about safety for workers and communities. When working in a volatile environment like an oil refinery, one wrong move due to a lack of training can result in catastrophic results,” said Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL – Aurora), the bill author. “People who live in the neighborhoods near these facilities should have the peace of mind that all workers are properly trained to do quality work every day, and that’s exactly what this bill will ensure.”

The legislation includes requirements for a skilled and trained workforce at an increasing percentage over three years. By January 1, 2024, at least 30% of the contractor’s workforce must have entered or completed a registered apprenticeship program in the building and construction trades. The minimum percentage increases to 45% on January 1, 2025 and again increases to 60% on January 1, 2026. The bill authorizes the Department of Labor and Industry to investigate complaints, issue compliance orders, and issue fines from $5,000 to $10,000 per violation.

“Oil refineries are extremely hazardous work environments, and, if poorly run, pose a substantial risk to our communities. We need a skilled and trained workforce at these sites to ensure the safety of Minnesota communities and workers,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “I’m grateful to Representative Lislegard, stakeholders, and advocates for their efforts to get this bill to the Governor’s desk.” 

In recent years, workers have been calling attention to safety shortcomings with increasing urgency. Potential hazards at the sites include scaffolding, air respirators, crane lifts, and volatile chemicals, the improper use of which could result in harm not just to workers, but significant environmental and community impacts. In March, 20,000 gallons of asphalt leaked from a tank at the Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park. The leak was contained, but safety concerns stemming from a lack of training standards persist.

The bill includes limited exceptions to the requirement, including contractors performing OEM (original equipment manufacturer) work, when the worker is covered by a collective bargaining agreement or project labor agreement requiring an apprenticeship, or certain emergency situations.

The Minnesota Senate passed the bill on April 17. The legislation now goes to Governor Walz for his anticipated signature.