US workplace safety agency rolls out national chemicals programme

01 December 2011 23:07  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--US workplace safety officials said on Thursday that they will launch a nationwide programme to ensure that chemical facility workers are adequately protected against catastrophic releases of toxic substances.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said that the national inspection plan grew out of a two-year pilot study that looked at chemical facility operations in the northeast, central US and northwest regions.

The study was conducted under OSHA’s national emphasis programme (NEP), which from time to time focuses agency attention on specific industries.

“During our pilot chemical NEP we found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labour for occupational safety and health.

“As a result, we are expanding the enforcement programme to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals,” he said.

The nationwide programme will involve “focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals”, OSHA said.

The pilot programme was conducted in OSHA region one, chiefly the New England states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Also involved in the pilot programme were states in OSHA region seven – Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri – and in region 10, which includes the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The states where the OSHA pilot programme was conducted are not high-density chemical industry areas.

An OSHA spokesman could not say whether expansion of the programme nationwide would necessarily involve more OSHA manpower or costs.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) said that it looked forward to cooperating with OSHA on the new national inspection programme.

“Our member companies look forward to demonstrating their commitment to safety through OSHA’s chemical national emphasis programme and benefitting from any new recommendations generated,” the council said.

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) said that it has been in regular contact with OSHA during the pilot programme and that its member firms “are aware of the nationwide NEP and are prepared for it”.

“We are confident that they will continue to perform well in the inspections,” said SOCMA spokeswoman Christine Sanchez.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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