US government departments recommend measures to improve chemical safety
09 June 2014
A federal working group led by the US Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended measures to improve chemical plant safety and security. The working group also includes representatives from the US Departments of Agriculture, Justice, and Transportation.
The proposals were submitted to President Barack Obama who in August 2013 issued an executive order to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities, while reducing the risks of hazardous chemicals to facility workers and operators.
The order follows the April 2013 explosion at a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, which killed 15 people and injured several hundred others.
The proposals overview said: "While the report describes many activities already undertaken to improve chemical facility safety and security, it also makes clear that much additional work is necessary to implement the consolidated action plan. We now transition to this implementation, an effort that will be completed over time and requires the collective efforts of all of us with a stake in chemical facility safety and security."
Based on the information collected by the working group, the short and long-term priority actions focus on five specific areas, namely strengthening community planning and preparedness, enhancing federal operational coordination, improving data management, modernising policies and regulation, and incorporating stakeholder feedback and best practices.
An online best practices repository aims to incorporate stakeholder feedback from listening sessions, meetings, and other outreach efforts and use the new web-based system to capture best practices.
The taskforce stated that the administration should finalise the implementation of new prevention-based regulations within the next 18 months.
It recommended that the administration order chemical facilities to use safer chemicals or processes, prioritise protection of the most vulnerable populations and modernise the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard.
It is also suggested enhanced funding for emergency response where safer processes are not available, while ensuring regular inspections of facilities, whistleblower security and protection of workers' rights.