Companies involved in the handling and shipping of hazardous chemicals can expect increased scrutiny, including targeted OSHA inspections at the nation’s 13,000+ chemical facilities, in light of the April ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas that killed 15 people and injured 200 more, and the August 1 presidential executive order to improve safety at chemical facilities nationwide.
“We expect a greater number of OSHA inspections as the new presidential order is implemented,” said Vahid Ebadat, CEO of Chilworth North America, providers of process safety management and engineering services and training. “In a facility handling or storing reactive chemicals, the population at risk often extends beyond the walls of the facility and includes emergency responders and the surrounding community. The Texas explosion was a stark reminder that the handling and storage of reactive chemicals presents serious risks that are not always properly addressed.”
In early August, the White House issued an executive order to improve safety at chemical facilities nationwide. The executive order directs the Department of Homeland Security, the EPA and DOL to establish a Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group to improve coordination among federal, state and local agencies, to review the effectiveness of chemical safety programs and to develop regulatory and legislative solutions. It also calls for the revision and strengthening of EPA’s Risk Management Program and OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard.
As part of the order, the working group will periodically convene stakeholders to identify and share successes to date and best practices to reduce risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals. These stakeholders will include chemical producers, chemical storage companies, agricultural supply companies, State and local regulators, chemical critical infrastructure owners and operators, first responders, labor organizations representing affected workers, environmental and community groups, and consensus standards organizations. The goal is to establish use of safer alternatives, to adopt best practices, and to form public-private partnerships.