Member Feature: Michael Santee
September 2022 marks 20 years ago that Michael Santee, CSP, CPP, Environmental, Health, Safety and Security Manager, was hired by CITGO Petroleum Corporation. Initially working for the company as a Regional EHS&S Manager in their Terminals and Pipelines Business Unit, Santee had limited experience in the terminal industry at the time, but possessed an extensive background in EH&S compliance activities.
“I remember one of my first important meetings was the annual one-day ILTA EH&S Committee Meeting that was held in Portland, Maine with less than 15 individuals at the table,” Santee recalled. “Now these meetings include 50 -75 members, twice per year, spanning multiple days.”
As a former Full Committee Chairman of ILTA’s EHS&S committee, Santee has been a very involved member for a number of years. The best part of being involved with ILTA, according to Santee, is the opportunity to interact with his peers from all the leading terminal companies in the country.
“We are clearly competitors, but as I often say at our EHS&S Committee meetings, we are all in the business of protecting people and the environment, and together—with our collective knowledge and experience—we can make a positive impact,” Santee said. “These interactions have helped me became a better employee for CITGO and stronger advocate for employee safety and health excellence.”
Santee enjoys the challenging nature of his position, in addition to working with the everchanging regulatory environment.
“No day is ever the same,” Santee said. “I enjoy engaging with government agencies, interpreting new rules and regulations, and implementing them in a practical manner. But most of all, I enjoy helping employees work safer and protecting the environment. I was hired as a regulatory compliance specialist, but I like to focus on encouraging and empowering employees to take responsibility for their actions on and off the job.”
Santee believes that once an employee feels empowered and part of the team for a greater purpose, that’s where real safety culture kicks in.
“I like interacting with employees at all levels of the organization, from top executives to hourly employees and contractors. I also enjoy developing programs, policies and procedures that help employees do their jobs more efficiently, instead of adding unnecessary busy work,” Santee explained. “My mission is to make their job easier, make the workplace safer, and to be a valuable resource to them.”
Santee’s perspective on the industry has shifted since he first began his career years ago.
“I naively thought most of the rules and regulations were already written and it would be straightforward to implement what was already in the books. Well obviously, I was wrong,” he said, noting the volume of regulatory updates and changes in all aspects of the terminal business is more challenging than ever. “Although compliance with rules and regulations is only a baseline for performance, all the other companies I interact with through ILTA are focusing on improving health and safety to affect a reduction of incidents. This is highlighted by the continual and steady decline in safety and environmental incidents tracked over the last 30 years, including the injury and illness data reported by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).”
When it comes to the future of the industry, Santee does expect some aspects to evolve over time.
“From a regulatory compliance perspective, I expect even more scrutiny from government agencies with new rules and regulations focused specifically on the terminal industry,” he said. “We will see increased activity on air emission, water quality and security fronts for sure. Changing fuels quality rules will have an impact, as well.”
Santee says liquid terminal companies aren’t going away anytime soon, as terminals play a vital role in keeping the country and world on the move.
“From refined petroleum products to specialty chemicals and fertilizers to food grade additives and everything in between, terminals will always be part of the system getting vital goods to people in the marketplace,” he explained.
For those just starting out in their career with a liquid terminal company, Santee offered some advice.
“Be ready for change and embrace it. From technology advancements in artificial intelligence and automation to the onslaught of rules, regulations and oversight from governmental agencies and nongovernmental special interest organizations, this industry will always be changing,” he said, adding that these changes make it challenging yet exciting to work in the terminal industry. “It’s important to note that terminal operations include all facets of business supply and distribution, financial, legal, logistics etc., where the skills developed here can be transferred to almost any other industry.”
In addition to his involvement with ILTA, Santee is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), National Safety Council (NSC) and ASIS International. He’s also a volunteer youth wrestling and football coach, and swims, bikes, runs or weight trains frequently.
“I use it as my mental and physical therapy for stress reduction!”
Courtesy of ILTA.