On June 6, a working group of Federal departments and agencies issued a report to President Obama titled Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment. This report is the result of Executive Order 13650, issued in August, 2013, requesting these departments and agencies to:
- Strengthen community planning and preparedness;
- Enhance Federal operational coordination;
- Improve data management within the Federal government, and improve information sharing;
- Modernize policies and regulations, to reflect the most up-to-date practices; and
- Incorporate stakeholder feedback and developing best practices.
The report recognizes that chemical facilities represent a serious challenge for both safety and security. For example, the recent explosion in West, Texas shows the devastation that can be caused when safety systems fail where large quantities of hazardous chemicals are stored. Therefore, government and industry must work together to make facilities and the communities around them as safe and secure as possible.
Steps taken so far include:
- Meetings with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with emergency responders across the country to increase preparedness and share lessons learned.
- Launching a regional pilot program in New York and New Jersey to allow all levels of government to coordinate chemical facility preparedness planning and response activities.
- Sharing data to identify facilities that, based on filings, may not yet be in compliance with required regulations.
- Updating online systems to integrate facility data and to assist facility compliance.
- Work on clarifying and updating procedures for chemicals such as ammonium nitrate and liquefied natural gases.
- Expanding training and guidance for EPA inspectors.
- Launching the Lessons Learned Information System (LLIS), an online best practices repository.
Further steps the report indicates will be taken include:
- Improving first responder and emergency management training.
- Aggregating more data across Federal agencies, and sharing them with State, local, tribal and territorial officials and first responders.
- Cross-training Federal safety and security field personnel.
- Modernizing and improving additional Federal regulations.
- Using procedures learned from the LLIS to create safer and more secure operations.
The working group says:
Over the past ten months, we have taken critical steps in bringing together Federal regulatory representatives and stakeholders with a vested interest in reducing the risks associated with the handling and storage of chemicals. These efforts truly represent a shared concern among those with a stake in chemical facility safety and security: facility owners and operators; Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments; regional entities; nonprofit organizations; facility workers; first responders; environmental justice and local environmental organizations; and communities.
The report is available for download on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, at https://www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/final_chemical_eo_status_report.pdf.
If you have questions about safety and security in your facility, contact us online or speak to one of our friendly representatives, at 1-888-442-9628 (U.S.) or 1-888-977-4834 (Canada). Our experts will help you with your own plans to safeguard your facility.