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“Regulated Industry Successfully Challenges New OSHA Process Safety Management Enforcement Policies”

On September 23, 2016, the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wrongfully adopted new safety requirements for fertilizer dealers who have to comply with the Process Safety Management Standard. Specifically, OSHA improperly issued a memorandum redefining the “retail facility” exemption and did not allow fertilizer dealers to comment on the new rules.

OSHA has promulgated a Process Safety Management (PSM) standard that implements certain requirements for employers to protect the safety of those who work with or near highly hazardous chemicals, and help prevent unexpected releases of such chemicals. Traditionally, retail establishments do not have to comply with the PSM standard because hazardous chemicals are present only in small volumes in such instances.

Following a 2013 explosion at a West Texas Fertilizer facility (videos above) that left 15 people dead after a large amount of ammonium nitrate caught fire, OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum expanding the scope of the PSM standard to cover more retail establishments, including agricultural dealers who sell anhydrous ammonia to farmers. Yet OSHA did this without requesting comments from the public or industry.

Working with legal counsel, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute organized a successful lawsuit challenging the new rule. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled that OSHA violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it issued the enforcement memorandum, finding that OSHA had engaged in rulemaking, and was thus bound to solicit comments from the public and industry. As a result of the successful lawsuit, ag retailers do not have to comply with the PSM standard until OSHA receives comments from the public and industry regarding the proposed changes to the PSM standard, which could take several years to finalize.

Commenting on the decision, Harold Cooper, chairman of the ARA, said that “[a]s an industry, ag retailers tend to be complacent about regulations that come our way. We keep our heads down and do what’s required,” he said. “But this rule would have limited farmers’ and retailers’ options through an agency’s improper regulatory overreach. Thankfully, ARA was uniquely prepared and positioned to defend our industry. They gave us a vehicle to fight and win this battle.”

The court’s ruling will make it more difficult in the future for OSHA to issue de facto standards without undertaking proper rulemaking procedures and soliciting comments from the public. Companies should proactively work with skilled legal counsel who can assist on rulemaking processes that impact workplace health and safety.

Source: 9/27/2016 by Daniel BirnbaumMichael Taylor  | BakerHostetler

 

 

 

 

 

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“National Preparedness Month 2016” – “Are You Ready?” #NatPrep

Don't Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.  

Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make a family emergency plan today. September is National Preparedness Month. Learn more at www.ready.gov/September.

National Preparedness Month

September is recognized as National Preparedness Month (NPM) which serves as a reminder that we all must take action to prepare, now and throughout the year, for the types of emergencies that could affect us where we live, work, and also where we visit. Due to the success of last year’s theme, “Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today,” will be returning for this September with a continuing emphasis on preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.  Thank you for taking time help make America more prepared for emergencies.

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseHow To Use This Toolkit

The National Preparedness Month Social Media Toolkit has key marketing and preparedness messaging you can print or share on your social media channels to spread the word to colleagues, family and friends throughout the month of September and beyond! You can either copy these messages directly or customize them to reach your audience.

This section is Expanded. Click to Collapse2016 Weekly Themes

  • Promote NPM:  August 28-September 3                  Kickoff to National Preparedness Month
  • Week 2:  September 4-10                                            Preparing Family & Friends
  • Week 3:  September 11-17                                          Preparing Through Service
  • Week 4:  September 18-24                                          Individual Preparedness
  • Week 5:  September 25-30                                          Lead up to National PrepareAthon Day

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseHashtags & Emoji’s

  • #NatlPrep
  • #YouthPrep
  • #PrepareAthon if you are conducting a preparedness exercise, tabletop discussion, or sharing a preparedness-in-action moment.
  • Feel free to add emoji’s (the little pictures on your mobile phone keyboard) to your social messages.

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseGraphics, Logo, Videos, & Related Links

Check out tips and ideas to promote preparedness content. For more engaging content, attach graphics that are sized appropriately for specific social media posts (i.e. Twitter & Facebook).

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapsePromote NPM: August 28-September 3| Kickoff To National Preparedness Month

Social Media Content

This content can be used on various social media channels, and is less than 140 characters.

  • #NatlPrep Month starts 9/1. Promote the theme “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” Tools: www.ready.gov/september
  • National Preparedness Month starts September 1! Follow #NatlPrep for tips. More info: www.ready.gov/september
  • “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” Get started here: www.ready.gov/make-a-plan #NatlPrep
  • National Preparedness Month has a different theme every week. Details: www.ready.gov/september #NatlPrep
  • Share your plans for National Preparedness Month using the hashtag #NatlPrep
  • Get ready to go from awareness to action during National Preparedness Month. #NatlPrep
  • RT This: “Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.” #NatlPrep
  • Creating your Family Emergency Communication Plan starts with one simple question “What if?” 1.usa.gov/1JwEwRG #NatlPrep
  • Does your family know what to do during a disaster? Start a plan today. #NatlPrep
  • You may not be with family when an emergency happens.  Create an emergency plan now: 1.usa.gov/1JwEwRG #NatlPrep

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseWeek 2- September 4-10| Preparing Family & Friends

During this week you will know how to:

  • Contact family and friends before, during, and after an emergency.
  • Make a family emergency communication plan
  • Consider that your entire family may not be together during a disaster- make a plan of how you will reunite after an emergency.
  • Prepare for the unique needs of your family members, friends and neighbors.

Graphics, Videos, & Related links

View in FEMA Multimedia Library

Social Media Content

Family Emergency Communication Plan

  • First week of #NatlPrep month is about getting all generations prepared. Anyone aged 2-102 should be ready for disasters!
  • Check out these tools to start your family emergency plan today: www.ready.gov/kids/make-a-plan #NatlPrep
  • Preparing the family for an emergency is as simple as a convo over dinner. Get started with tips fromwww.ready.gov #NatlPrep
  • What’s in your wallet? Part of our family emergency communication plan can be. Get the pocket-sized version: 1.usa.gov/1LPuV9o #NatlPrep
  • Tip: Keep important numbers written down in your wallet, not just on your phone: 1.usa.gov/1LPuV9o #NatlPrep
  • Take part in #PrepareAthon Day on 9/30 by participating in a preparedness discussion or training: 1.usa.gov/1S6oT4U #NatlPrep
  • Complete the actions in this #preparedness puzzle, you’ll be 10 steps closer to being prepared for an emergency: bit.ly/22tNNpV #NatlPrep
  • Download a group texting app so the entire family can keep in touch before, during & after an emergency. #NatlPrep

Youth Preparedness

  • Sending the kids off to school? Make sure they know what to do in case of an emergency. www.Ready.gov/kids#NatlPrep
  • Include your pet in your emergency preparedness plans. Info: www.ready.gov/pets #NatlPrep
  • Nearly 70M children are in school/childcare each workday. Make a family plan to know how to reunite during an emergency #NatlPrep
  • Kids bored? We can help. Check out our online Ready Kids build a kit game: http://go.usa.gov/5hS5 #NatlPrep
  • Ask your child’s school for a copy of their emergency plan for you to keep at home or work #NatlPrep
  • Fill out emergency contact numbers with your kids before they go #BackToSchool #NatlPrep

Caregivers/Older Adults

  • Caregivers, get all the resources you need in case of an emergency. Check out ready.gov for tips. #NatlPrep
  • Dads at work, Gram’s with friends, kids are at school when disaster strikes. How will you get in touch? Don’t Wait. Communicate. #NatlPrep
  • Make sure parents and grandparents know how to text/post messages for emergencies. #NatlPrep
  • Make sure your parents/grandparents have a *secure* digital copy of their insurance info. #NatlPrep

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseWeek 3:  September 11-17|Preparing Through Service

During this week you will know how to:

  • Understand the importance of community preparedness.
  • Get involved with your community organization or plan with neighbors.
  • Highlight local preparedness efforts in your community.
  • Celebrate first responders.
  • Celebrate emergency-focused organizations who serve communities.

Graphics, Videos, & Related links

Social Media Content

National Day of Service & Remembrance

  • I will [fill in your service project] What will you do for your community on this National Day of Service & Remembrance? Tell us using #911Day
  • Do at least 1 good deed for your community on 9/11: http://bit.ly/29DymSw  #911Day
  • Thousands of people all around the nation will commit to a day of service on September 11. Be a part of it and share your experience! Using #911Day
  • How will you give back on National Day of Service & Remembrance? Snap It. Tag It. Post It. #911Day

Volunteer with an Organization

Help Your Community Get Prepared

  • Give a shout out to first responders and community service organizations that have made a difference in your community! #NatlPrep
  • Looking for an opportunity to serve your community? Start with steps found on @ServeDotGovhttp://bit.ly/2a3FAEr #NatlPrep
  • Emergency preparedness is a “whole community” effort. Get involved in your community today:http://bit.ly/2a3FAEr #NatlPrep
  • Your neighbor may have to rely on you during an emergency. Will you be ready:  http://bit.ly/29S1giS  #NatlPrep
  • #PrepareAthon can help your community discover activities to keep you and your neighbors safe:www.ready.gov/prepare  #NatlPrep
  • Visit our map to find resources & info on preparedness in your community:http://www.ready.gov/america/local/index.html #NatlPrep
  • At your next home owners association meeting share this community preparedness resource: http://bit.ly/29VKBfU #NatlPrep
  • Your neighbor may need you when an emergency hits. Plan with your neighbor today. http://1.usa.gov/1WVsAy7#NatlPrep
  • “Community preparedness is a shared responsibility.” Share this resource with your community:http://bit.ly/29VKBfU #NatlPrep
  • Did you know? FEMA has online trainings to help get your community prepared. Take them today:http://bit.ly/29VKBfU #NatlPrep
  • Almost half of Americans expect to rely on their neighbors after a disaster. Plan today: http://1.usa.gov/1QmIZGG#NatlPrep
  • We can’t do it without YOU! Increase your community’s preparedness by joining #PrepareAthonwww.ready.gov/prepare #NatlPrep

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseWeek 4:  September 18-24| Individual Preparedness

During this week you will know how to:

  • Understand actions you can take to be prepared for emergency
  • Be aware of specific needs you may have if an emergency strikes like: medication, power needs, eye classes, devices that you may count on, pet needs, etc.
  • Understand safety tips and protective actions you can take before or during a disaster.
  • Download the FEMA app for disaster resources, weather alerts, and safety tips

Graphics, Videos, & Related links

Social Media Content

General

  • Be informed, make a plan, build a kit, get involved. Everyone can take steps to prepare for an emergency:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcnCQ_pdVCY #NatlPrep
  • Make disaster preparedness a part of your everyday routine and protect yourself and your loved ones:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcnCQ_pdVCY #NatlPrep
  • Being prepared is part of who you are, and disaster preparation is no different: www.ready.gov/myplan #NatlPrep
  • Take meds? Plan ahead by keeping a copy of your Rx + 1 week supply in a safe place. #NatlPrep
  • Keep a radio & extra batteries handy to listen for info from local officials if you lose power. #NatlPrep
  • Gather your supplies before a hurricane so you won’t find yourself with empty shelves. Supply list:www.ready.gov/kit. #NatlPrep
  • If you rely on public transportation, contact your local emergency management agency about evac info ahead of a hurricane. #NatlPrep
  • Sign up to receive text or e-mail alerts about emergencies like wildfire from your local Office of Emergency Management. #NatlPrep
  • Are you getting your community prepared for a #tornado #hurricane or #wildfire? Add your activity:www.ready.gov/prepare  #NatlPrep
  • Wireless Emergency Alerts can save lives! Be smart. Know your alerts and warnings. Learn more: 1.usa.gov/1jLKAGr #NatlPrep
  • Make sure you know what your insurance policy covers before an emergency: 1.usa.gov/1UGuFAA #NatlPrep
  • There are plenty of ways individuals can get prepared. Here’s 10 ways: bit.ly/22tNNpV #NatlPrep

FEMA App

Safety tips during a disaster

  • Know what to do when roads are flooded: “Turn Around Don’t Drown®! It may save your life!” #NatlPrep
  • If you’re already on “high ground” during a flood, stay where you are. Be prepared by having your supplies already stored. #NatlPrep
  • Wildfires often begin unnoticed. Call 911 if you see a #wildfire! More tips: http://go.usa.gov/3AqSx #NatlPrep
  • You may have to evacuate quickly due to a #hurricane. Learn your evacuation routes & identify where you will stay. #NatlPrep
  • An emergency may knock out power. Prepare by stocking non-perishable food items & water. #NatlPrep
  • During an #earthquake DROP, COVER, & HOLD ON. Share this safety message from @TheRock:https://youtu.be/vRdTaLWrpTE #NatlPrep
  • Know your community’s local #hurricane evacuation plan and identify several evacuation routes for your location. #NatlPrep
  • Don’t risk your family’s safety; follow the instructions of local officials – and if told to evacuate, evacuate! #HurricaneStrong

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseWeek 5:  September 25-30| Lead Up To National Day Of Action

During this week you will learn how to:

  • Participate in National PrepareAthon! Day on September 30.
  • Add your preparedness activity to www.ready.gov/prepare.
  • Encourage others to do a preparedness activity and register it on www.ready.gov/prepare.
  • Share images of you and your community doing a preparedness activity.
  • Share stories of how being prepared made a difference using #PrepareAthon.

Graphics, Videos, & Related links

Social Media Content

Be Counted: Add Your Preparedness Activity

  • Be Counted: Add your emergency preparedness activities to the America’s PrepareAthon! website:www.ready.gov/prepare  #PrepareAthon
  • Join millions of Americans taking action for #PrepareAthon by adding your preparedness activities today:www.ready.gov/prepare
  • How many of the 10 #PrepareAthon activities have you completed? Be sure to register your actions:www.ready.gov/prepare
  • Ready, Set, Go! Register your  preparedness activities now: www.ready.gov/prepare
  • There’s no time like the present to register your preparedness activities: www.ready.gov/prepare #PrepareAthon

Take Action: Join Others to do a Preparedness Activity

  • America’s #PrepareAthon has 10 ways to participate. Choose your activity: www.ready.gov/prepare  #PrepareAthon
  • Get the scoop on 10 things you can do to get prepared for an emergency here: http://bit.ly/29Kjc0Q#PrepareAthon
  • Be a part of the millions taking action and getting prepared for emergencies. Join us: www.ready.gov/prepare  #PrepareAthon
  • Join a nationwide emergency preparedness movement and prepare for disasters in your area:www.ready.gov/prepare #PrepareAthon
  • As part of America’s #PrepareAthon, we are committed to getting prepared for emergencies. Are you?www.ready.gov/prepare #PrepareAthon
  • Help spread the word about #PrepareAthon w/ these promotional materials and toolkits: http://bit.ly/1ROi609
  • National #PrepareAthon Day is Sept. 30. What are you doing to prepare?
  • Assembling emergency supplies is one way to participate in America’s #PrepareAthon! Here are 9 more:http://1.usa.gov/1WgMKnH #PrepareAthon
  • Do you have the FEMA app? It’s preparedness at your fingertips. Download it today! http://1.usa.gov/1CRVzMB#PrepareAthon

Share It: Your Preparedness Story May Inspire Others

  • See how communities across the nation are preparing for #disasters! Visit the #PrepareAthon “stories” page:http://1.usa.gov/1Yb7xsk
  • Extra, extra read all about it! Communities everywhere are getting prepared for emergencies:http://1.usa.gov/1Yb7xsk #PrepareAthon
  • Use #PrepareAthon to share how you’re getting your community involved in preparedness.
  • How has preparing made a difference in your life and/or community?  Tell us your #PrepareAthon story!
  • A community in action tends to stay in action. Share your story about taking action for emergencies using #PrepareAthon.
  • Did preparing in advance help you during a disaster?  Share your experience with #PrepareAthon
  • Built an emergency kit? Created a family communications plan? Tell others what you did using #PrepareAthon.
  • I participated in America’s #PrepareAthon so my community can be prepared for emergencies.
  • Have you taken action? Tell others what you did to prepare for emergencies and how it made a difference using #PrepareAthon.
  • I participated in America’s #PrepareAthon so my community can be prepared for emergencies.
  • “It Started Like Any Other Day” Hear how a disaster changed the lives of these survivors: http://bit.ly/1nwuDXu#PrepareAthon

Take Part: It’s National PrepareAthon! Day

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapseCongressional Co-Chairs

This section is Expanded. Click to CollapsePresidential Proclamation

“Run, Hide, Fight” – “Surviving An Active Shooter Event”

As much as it pains us all to think about this happening to us, workers need to be informed and taught what to do if this “unfortunate” type of violence ever happens in their workplace.

A new public service announcement in Houston features three strategies to practice in case of a workplace shooting in one of the first safety videos produced as a precaution against active shooters in the wake of the horrific movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., 10 days ago. Produced by the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security, “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event,” is a six-minute video released last week that promotes tips on how to survive a shooting inside the workplace.

“If you are ever to find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event, your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan,” the narrator says in the video. “The plan doesn’t have to be complicated.”

The video opens with an active shooter beginning to shoot at random employees at a workplace. During the course of the public service announcement, three safety options are presented – run, hide and fight. The video suggests running to be the first option, followed by hiding. Fighting should be considered a “last resort,” according to the narrator.

“Your actions can make a difference for your safety and survival,” the narrator says in the video. “Be aware and be prepared.”

The video is a part of the Ready Houston initiative focusing on regional disaster preparedness, according to Talking Points Memo. The public service announcement has been funded by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security’s Regional Catastrophic Planning Initiative, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The video’s production was not in lieu of the Aurora shooting. The Chronicle reports that filming had wrapped up two weeks prior to the July 20 theater shooting.

“We didn’t release it at the time because we didn’t know it was relevant,” Dennis Storemski, head of the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security Department, told the Houston Chronicle. “Now it is.”

Source: Houston Chronicle

 

“Are You In Compliance?”-“June 1, 2016 – HAZCOM And GHS, The Final Deadline”

HazCom and GHS: The Final Deadline

HazCom and GHS: The Final Deadline by Safety.BLR.com

June 1, 2016, is the final deadline in the 4-year phase-in period for OSHA’s 2012 revisions to the hazard communication standard that aligned with the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS. Check out the infographic for an overview of what the final deadline requires and tips to make sure your facility is prepared.

“RMP Changes Are Almost Here, Stay A Step Ahead”

RMP-update_TF-post

By Timothy P Fagan, Senior Legal Editor

It has been 3 years since the ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, killed 15 people, injured hundreds, and caused widespread damage.  Just a few months after that event, President Obama’s Executive Order (EO) 13650 set into motion actions by numerous government agencies designed to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks that hazardous chemicals pose to owners and operators, workers, and communities.

In addition to enhancing cooperation and information sharing among federal agencies and state and local authorities, the activities stemming from EO 13650 included modernizing key regulations, such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) and OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Program.  To that end, the EPA recently proposed amendments to RMP regulations under 40 CFR 68, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made policy changes with respect to PSM that will impact how facilities comply with the RMP.

What changes are coming?

The changes to RMP regulations being proposed by the EPA impact the implementation of release prevention programs, the development of emergency response plans, and the sharing of information.

Release prevention programs.  The proposed changes to the accidental release prevention programs include:

  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to conduct root cause analyses as part of any incident investigation of a catastrophic release or a “near miss.” Identifying the root cause rather than the immediate cause will be more beneficial in preventing similar accidents in the future.
  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to hire an independent third party to perform a compliance audit after the facility has a reportable release.  Currently, such audits are self-audits, so requiring a third party increases the objectivity of the audit.
  • Requiring facilities in the paper manufacturing, petroleum and coal products manufacturing, and chemical manufacturing sectors with Program 3 processes to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of the process hazard analysis that must be updated every 5 years.  The facilities must then evaluate the feasibility of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified in the STAA.   The implementation of IST potentially reduces the risk of accidental releases within these industries, which the EPA has identified as having a disproportionate share of reportable releases.

Emergency response plans.  The proposed changes to emergency response plans include:

  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least once a year to ensure that resources and capabilities are in place to respond to an accidental release and to ensure that emergency contact information is up to date.  Effective coordination and communication between facilities and emergency responders can reduce the severity of accidental chemical releases.
  • Requiring all facilities with Program Level 2 or 3 processes that have developed their own emergency response plan to conduct a full field exercise at least once every 5 years and one tabletop exercise annually in the other years.   In addition, such facilities that have a reportable accident would be required to conduct a full field exercise within 1 year of the accident.  Such exercises will help ensure that all emergency response personnel understand their roles and responsibilities and be better prepared in the event of a real accident.

Access to information.  The proposed changes to accessing RMP information include:

  • Requiring RMP facilities to provide certain basic information to the public through easily accessible means such as a facility website.  If no website exists, the owner or operator may provide the information at public libraries or government offices or use other means appropriate for particular locations and facilities.
  • Requiring RMP facilities to hold a public meeting after an RMP reportable accident.
  • Requiring certain facilities to provide, on request, local emergency response agencies with summaries of audits, emergency response exercises, investigation reports, and implemented ISTs.
The surprising omission

After the issuance of EO 13650, there was significant speculation that the modernization of RMP regulations would involve additions to the listed chemicals regulated under 40 CFR 68 and a reevaluation of the thresholds at which chemicals became subject to the RMP.  However, the EPA opted not to regulate any additional chemicals under the RMP, nor did the agency change any of the thresholds as part of the recently released proposed regulations.

OSHA’s impact on RMP

Any RMP process that is subject to OSHA’s PSM must comply with Program Level 3 requirements, the most stringent requirements.  Last year OSHA revised its interpretation of the PSM standard’s retail facility exemption, which will result in thousands of facilities no longer being exempt from PSM.  Most of these facilities are already subject to the RMP under Program Level 2, but the change in the exemption interpretation will result in these facilities becoming Program Level 3 facilities.  OSHA will begin enforcing the new exemption interpretation on September 30, 2016, and the EPA will require risk management plan updates within the following 6 months.

What happens next?

For several years there has been speculation about what changes would be made to RMP regulations and how facilities would be impacted.  Now the proposed regulations are here, and facilities must begin the evaluation process.  Facilities must evaluate the proposed regulations and provide comments to the EPA, if necessary, and facilities must evaluate their own programs, procedures, and plans to determine what changes must be implemented to ensure continued compliance with a changing RMP.

“June 1, 2016 – HAZCOM And GHS, The Final Deadline”

HazCom and GHS: The Final Deadline

HazCom and GHS: The Final Deadline by Safety.BLR.com

June 1, 2016, is the final deadline in the 4-year phase-in period for OSHA’s 2012 revisions to the hazard communication standard that aligned with the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS. Check out the infographic for an overview of what the final deadline requires and tips to make sure your facility is prepared.

“U.S. Chemical Safety Board Releases New Safety Video, “Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” Detailing Report Findings and Recommendations on 2013 Fatal West Fertilizer Company Explosion and Fire “

January 29, 2016, Washington, DC – Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video into the fatal April 17, 2013, fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, which resulted in 15 fatalities, more than 260 injuries, and widespread community damage. The deadly fire and explosion occurred when about thirty tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate (FGAN) exploded after being heated by a fire at the storage and distribution facility.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Dangerously Close: Explosion in West, Texas,” includes a 3D animation of the fire and explosion as well as interviews with CSB investigators and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video can be viewed above or on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “This tragic accident should not have happened. We hope that this video, by sharing lessons learned from our West Fertilizer Company investigation, will help raise awareness of the hazards of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate so that a similar accident can be avoided in the future.”

The CSB’s investigation found that several factors contributed to the severity of the explosion, including poor hazard awareness and fact that nearby homes and business were built in close proximity to the West Fertilizer Company over the years prior to the accident. The video explains that there was a stockpile of 40 to 60 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the facility in plywood bins on the night of the explosion. And although FGAN is stable under normal conditions, it can violently detonate when exposed to contaminants in a fire.

In the video, Team Lead Johnnie Banks says, “We found that as the city of West crept closer and closer to the facility, the surrounding community was not made aware of the serious explosion hazard in their midst. And the West Fertilizer Company underestimated the danger of storing fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate in ordinary combustible structures.”

The CSB investigation concludes that this lack of awareness was due to several factors, including gaps in federal regulatory coverage of ammonium nitrate storage facilities. The video details safety recommendations made to OSHA and the EPA to strengthen their regulations to protect the public from hazards posed by FGAN.

Finally, the video explains how inadequate emergency planning contributed to the tragic accident. The CSB found that the West Volunteer Fire Department was not required to perform pre-incident planning for an ammonium nitrate-related emergency, nor were the volunteer firefighters required to attend training on responding to fires involving hazardous chemicals. As a result, the CSB made several safety recommendations to various stakeholders, including the EPA, to better inform and train emergency responders on the hazards of FGAN and other hazardous chemicals.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “The CSB’s goal is to ensure that no one else be killed or injured due to a lack of awareness of hazardous chemicals in their communities. If adopted, the Board’s recommendations can help prevent disasters like the one in West, Texas.”

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Please visit our website, www.csb.gov

For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at public@csb.gov or by phone at 202.446.8095.

 

“CSB Releases New Safety Video Entitled “Shock to the System” Offering Key Lessons for Preventing Hydraulic Shock in Ammonia Refrigeration Systems”

CSB

Latest Safety Video Includes Detailed Animation of 32,000- Pound Release of Ammonia in Alabama which Led to Offsite Injuries Including Multiple Hospitalizations in 2010

Washington, D.C, March 26, 2015 – Today the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its latest safety video detailing key lessons from the release of 32,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia that occurred at Millard Refrigerated Services Inc. on August 23, 2010. The accident resulted in over 150 exposures to offsite workers, thirty of which were hospitalized – four in an intensive care unit.

The newly released seven-minute safety video, entitled “Shock to the System,” includes a detailed 3D animation of the events that led up the resulting ammonia release. The video is based on the CSB’s recent View of cracked pipe following the 2010 ammonia release safety bulletin entitled “Key Lessons for Preventing Hydraulic Shock in Industrial Refrigeration Systems.”

Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso said, “The CSB’s new safety video is a valuable tool intended for use at the large number of facilities that utilize anhydrous ammonia. The key lessons learned from our investigation – examined in our report and in this video — can help facilities prevent a similar accident from occurring due to hydraulic shock.”

The CSB’s video is available at its YouTube channel and at www.csb.gov

The CSB’s investigation found that the day prior to the accident the Millard facility experienced a loss of power that lasted more than seven hours. During that time the refrigeration system was shut down. The next day, on August 23, 2010, the system regained power and was up and running, though operators reported certain problems.  While doing some troubleshooting an operator cleared alarms in the control system, which reset the refrigeration cycle on a group of freezer evaporators that were in the process of defrosting.

This resulted in both hot, high-pressure gas and extremely low temperature liquid ammonia to be present in the coils and associated piping at the same time. This caused the hot high-pressure ammonia gas to rapidly condense into a liquid.  Because liquid ammonia takes up less volume than ammonia gas – a vacuum was created where the gas had condensed.

The sudden pressure drop sent a wave of liquid ammonia through the piping – causing a sudden pressure surge known as “hydraulic shock.”

This abnormal transient condition results in a sharp pressure rise with the potential to cause catastrophic failure of piping, valves, and other components. Often prior to a hydraulic shock incident there is an audible “hammering” in refrigeration piping,.

CSB Investigator Tyler said, “The CSB’s animation details how the pressure surge ruptured the evaporator piping manifold inside one of the freezers causing a roof-mounted 12-inch suction pipe to catastrophically fail, resulting in the release of more than 32,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia and its associated 12-inch piping on the roof of the facility.”

The release resulted in injuries to a Millard employee when he fell while attempting to escape from a crane after it became engulfed in the traveling ammonia cloud.  The large cloud traveled a quarter mile from the facility south toward an area where 800 contractors were working outdoors at a clean-up site for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A total of 152 offsite workers and ship crew members reported symptomatic illnesses from ammonia exposure. Thirty two of the offsite workers required hospitalization, four of them in an intensive care unit.

The video presents the key lessons learned from the CSB’s investigation including avoiding the manual interruption of evaporators in defrost and requiring control systems to be equipped with password protection to ensure only trained and authorized personnel have the authority to manually override systems. On the day of the incident, the control system did not recognize that the evaporator was already in the process of defrosting, and allowed an operator to manually restart the refrigeration cycle without removing the hot ammonia gas from the evaporator coil.

The CSB also found that the evaporators at the Millard facility were designed so that one set of valves controlled four separate evaporator coils. As a result, the contents of all four coils connected to that valve group were involved in the hydraulic shock event – leading to a larger, more hazardous pressure surge. As a result, the CSB notes that when designing ammonia refrigeration systems each evaporator coil should be controlled by a separate set of valves.

And the CSB found that immediately after discovering the ammonia release, a decision was made to isolate the source of the leak while the refrigeration system was still operating instead of initiating an emergency shutdown. Shutting down the refrigeration system may have resulted in a smaller release, since all other ammonia-containing equipment associated with the failed rooftop piping continued to operate. A final key lesson from the CSB’s investigation is that an emergency shutdown should be activated in the event of an ammonia release if a leak cannot be promptly isolated and controlled. Doing so can greatly reduce the amount of ammonia released during an accident.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, http://www.csb.gov.  For more information, contact public@csb.gov.

 

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