Federal agencies issue advisory on ammonium nitrate safety

30 August 2013 23:07  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a chemical advisory on Friday in an effort to promote federally mandated safety efforts in regard to ammonium nitrate (AN).

The federal agencies, in response to President Barrack Obama's 1 August executive order on improving chemical facility safety and security, have designed guidelines for improved chemical safety in regard to ammonium nitrate. The rules include information on ensuring proper building design, storage containers and fire protection at locations where ammonium nitrate is contained.

“Understanding and minimizing the hazards posed by solid ammonium nitrate used in fertilizers is a key component of this advisory,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “In addition, the community emergency planning and response information in this document provides a valuable tool that will help protect workers, first responders and communities throughout the country.”

OSHA officials stressed that due to the dangers associated with the fertilizer product that it is imperative that companies, workers and first responders become more knowledgeable about dealing with the storage and handling of AN and about responding to emergencies related to it.

Earlier this month, Obama established the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group and instructed the agencies to improve operational coordination with state and local partners, enhance federal agency coordination and information sharing and modernise policies, regulations and standards.

Senator Barbara Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, has been very active in getting new measures passed following the tragic explosion in West, Texas, in which AN is blamed for 15 deaths, 200 injured people and millions of dollars in structural damage. Boxer said she was grateful that measures have been enacted to hopefully prevent a repeat of the West Fertilizer accident.

I pledged that the EPW Committee would focus on how to prevent such needless tragedies in the future," Boxer said. "If ammonium nitrate is stored safely or if alternatives are used, explosions could have been prevented in the past and more explosions could be prevented in the future."

President Obama's executive order requested federal agencies devise new options within 90 days for the safe and secure storage, handling and sale of AN. Obama said he also seeks to improve communication among regulators regarding facilities such as the West Fertilizer site. The order calls for a modernisation of the policies and standards currently used to regulate the chemical industry.

By: Mark Milam
+1 713 525 2653

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