Name: Marlene Mercado
Title: Plant Manager, Hexion Deer Park site near Houston, Texas
Tenure in role: 5 years
About Hexion, Inc.: Based in Columbus, Ohio, Hexion Inc. is a global provider of thermoset resins. Hexion serves the global adhesive, coatings, composites, and industrial markets
THE SCIENCE & SAFETY OF BPA
Bisphenol A, or BPA, as it is commonly known, is one of the most essential and well-researched compounds in use today. Around since the 1950s, BPA is a building-block chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins because it creates strong, sturdy and clear materials used for a variety of purposes, including in medical products, electronics, personal safety equipment, food storage and packaging applications. Innovative products made possible by the chemistry of BPA also help make automotive and aerospace parts more lightweight without sacrificing performance, a quality that makes them more fuel efficient and more sustainable.
The manufacture of BPA is an integral part of the U.S. industrial base given its importance to so many consumer products, and maintaining a safe worksite is paramount for manufacturers and facility workers alike. Marlene Mercado, a chemical plant employee for more than 35 years, has extensive experience in the safe and sustainable manufacture of chemical products like BPA. After three decades at another chemical manufacturer, Mercado came to Hexion’s Deer Park site, where as the site leader she is responsible for all aspects of workplace health and safety, including product stewardship for the plant’s production and distribution of BPA and related products. Much of the BPA manufactured in the Deer Park plant is used to make high performance paint coatings that provide chemical resistance and add durability.
AN INDUSTRY COMMITTED TO WORKPLACE SAFETY
Plants manufacturing BPA have worked for decades to develop and enhance safety protocols to help ensure safe, responsible production.
Safety is a top priority for chemical manufacturing facilities, and Responsible Care® — the chemical industry’s environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) performance initiative — is emblematic of that commitment. Overseen by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry trade association, participation in Responsible Care is a requirement for all of ACC’s chemical manufacturer members. Through implementation of Responsible Care, ACC members, as well as Responsible Care Partners across the chemical supply chain, demonstrate their commitment to the health and safety of their employees, the communities in which they operate and the environment as a whole.
The initiative has helped enhance facility safety — Responsible Care companies have a worker safety rate that is almost five times better than the U.S. manufacturing sector at large. In addition, Responsible Care companies have reduced process safety incidents by 56 percent since 2000 and recordable injury and illness rates by 30 percent since 2010.
As part of its commitment to worker safety under Responsible Care, Hexion offers on-the-job training lasting several months, and Mercado says its long duration and rigor are critical to the safety of everyone at the plant.
Hexion also offers ongoing training through safety educational sessions and monthly safety meetings. Mercado said that employees exchange real-life scenarios and exemplary practices gleaned from other plants, which can have a significant impact on employee safety, allowing employees to work through risk scenarios that have the potential to occur in the facility.
Mercado’s responsibility for keeping employees safe became more challenging throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Even at the height of the pandemic, Hexion production continued, with operators working four shifts, seven days a week. Mercado juggled schedules to maintain social distancing, added plastic dividers to operator control stations, and shifted in-person meetings to a virtual format where possible, among other safety measures.
Clearly proud of her team, Mercado said they “never stopped.” Hexion’s Deer Park site has generally maintained operations throughout the global pandemic while remaining focused on operating safely. She said Hexion has been recognized for its commitment to workplace safety and product stewardship, which she credits to the kind of employee dedication made evident throughout the pandemic. In 2021, Hexion received the Responsible Care Award for COVID-19 Outstanding Response Efforts and has previously been recognized for excellence in Waste Minimization, Energy Efficiency, and Facility Safety under Responsible Care.
“I’m proud to say that a lot of our drive, improvements, and accountability happen on the shop floor,” Mercado said.
Mercado also says she is proud of her plant’s work to produce a chemical used in so many important products. She highlighted the role BPA plays in renewable energy.
“There is tremendous momentum behind green energy, and the majority of our products join with other materials to create wind turbines, and automotive and aerospace parts,” Mercado said.
Mercado said sustainability and safety are two key focuses for Hexion. “Product stewardship encompasses the management of the process from product creation to inception with a focus on safety and sustainability,” Mercado said. “Safety is our number one priority.”
As part of its sustainability efforts, Hexion has continually sought to align its manufacturing operations with strategic sustainability practices, Mercado said, including a company-wide commitment to positively impact climate change by reducing absolute carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2030.
Leaders like Mercado exemplify industry’s commitment to help protect the safety of its workers and its products, and enhancing the sustainability of its operations, all while continuing to provide the essential materials consumers rely on every day.