Advertisements

“CSB Releases New Safety Video Detailing Investigation into 2013 Fatal Fire and Explosion at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, LA”

January 25, 2017, Washington, DC –

Today the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety video of its investigation of the June 13, 2013 explosion and fire at the Williams Olefins Plant in Geismar, Louisiana, which killed two workers and injured an additional 167.  The deadly explosion and fire occurred when a heat exchanger containing flammable liquid propane violently ruptured.

The CSB’s newly released 12-minute safety video entitled, “Blocked In,” includes a 3D animation of the explosion and fire as well as interviews with CSB investigator Lauren Grim and Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland. The video is based on the CSB’s case study on the Williams incident and can be viewed on the CSB’s website and YouTube.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “Our investigation on the explosion at Williams describes an ineffective process safety management program at the plant at the time of the incident. We urge other companies to incorporate our recommendations at their facilities and to assess the state of their cultures to promote safety at all organizational levels to prevent a similar accident. ”

The CSB’s investigation found many process safety management program deficiencies at Williams, which set the stage for the incident. In particular, the CSB found that the heat exchanger that failed was completely isolated from its pressure relief valve.

In the video, Investigator Lauren Grim said, “When evaluating overpressure protection requirements for heat exchangers, engineers must think about how to manage potential scenarios, including unintentional hazards. In this case, simply having a pressure relief valve available could have prevented the explosion.”

The CSB investigation concluded that in the twelve years leading to the incident, a series of process safety management program deficiencies caused the heat exchanger to be unprotected from overpressure.  As revealed in the investigation, during that time Management of Change Reviews, Pre-Startup Safety Reviews, and Process Hazard Analyses all failed to effectively identify and control the hazard.

In addition, the CSB found that Williams failed to develop a written procedure for activities performed on the day of the incident, nor did the company have a routine maintenance schedule to prevent the operational heat exchanger from needing to be shut down for cleaning.

Finally, the video describes CSB’s recommendations made to the Williams Geismar plant which  encourages similar companies to review and incorporate into their own facilities. These include:

– Conduct safety culture assessments that involve workforce participation, and communicate the results in reports that recommend specific actions to address safety culture weaknesses

– Develop a robust safety indicators tracking program that uses the data identified to drive continual safety improvement

– And perform comprehensive process safety program assessments to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of the facility’s process safety programs.

“Managers must implement and then monitor safety programs and encourage a strong culture of safety to protect workers and the environment,” Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said,

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. CSB investigations examine 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, http://www.csb.gov.

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

 

Advertisements

“Confined Spaces – Supervisor Safety Tip Series” #ConfinedSpace #Safety

Developed by Vivid’s Chief Safety Officer Jill James, a former OSHA inspector, this series examines real hazards in real work environments. This safety tip video explains ways to stay safe while working with Confined Spaces.

Confined spaces are enclosed or partially enclosed spaces of a size such that a worker can squeeze entry for performing assigned work through a narrow opening—they’re tough to get in and out of, tight spaces. These spaces are normally only entered to perform specific tasks and then barricaded to prevent unauthorized access.

As an example, think of a large tank used for holding liquid. Sometimes, these storage units or big containers need to be cleaned out, so you send a worker to get inside and they’re completely surrounded by walls of the structure, with only a small entry/exit hatch for escape if things go awry. Confined spaces create the ideal conditions for the onset of claustrophobia. Confined spaces can be large or small and above or below ground.

This video covers:

Source: Vivid Learning Systems

“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

 

 

 

 

 

“New TSCA Law Starts NOW!”

tsca_carousel

“For the first time in 20 years, we are updating a national environmental statute,” said President Obama before signing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act on Wednesday. The president noted that the updated law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which took effect in 1976 “didn’t quite work the way it should have in practice.” That was a vast understatement, particularly in regard to the regulation of existing chemicals. The president pointed out that of the 62,000 chemicals in the marketplace in 1976, only 5 have been banned.

“Five,” said the president. “And only a tiny percentage have even been reviewed for health and safety. The system was so complex, it was so burdensome that our country hasn’t even been able to uphold a ban on asbestos—a known carcinogen that kills as many as 10,000 Americans every year.”

The president added that the new law will do away with an outdated bureaucratic formula to evaluate safety and, instead, focus solely on the risks to public health.

Industry Pushed Hard

The law passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming, but not unanimous, support. Pockets of resistance remain, particularly regarding the law’s provision allowing federal preemption of state action on chemicals the EPA is reviewing. Nonetheless, the law made it to the president’s desk despite today’s extremely partisan climate in Washington. The president noted that passage of the legislation revived the bipartisan tradition of the early 1970s when Democrats and Republicans came together to pass “those pillars of legislation to protect our air, and our water, and our wildlife.”

The president specifically thanked the American Chemistry Council and S.C. Johnson, both of which “pushed hard for this law,” noting also that the law “gives them the certainty they need to keep out-innovating and out-competing companies from other parts of the world.”

In its statement of support following congressional approval, S.C. Johnson spoke favorably of EPA’s new authority to systematically prioritize all chemicals currently in commerce for safety evaluations.

What’s Next?

The law took effect with the president’s signature.  The major deadlines in the law apply to the EPA. As the EPA sees it, the most immediate effect is on the new chemicals review process. The Agency is now required to make an affirmative determination on a new chemical or significant new use of an existing chemical before manufacturing can commence. For companies that submitted premanufacture notices (PMNs) before enactment, which are currently undergoing review, the new law effectively resets the 90-day review period.

EPA’s other deadlines include the following:

  • Within 180 days, the Agency must publish an initial list of at least 10 high-priority chemicals and 10 low-priority chemicals. Within 3.5 years, the EPA must have 20 ongoing risk evaluations.
  • The EPA must publish an annual goal for the number of chemicals to be subject to the prioritization screening process. The Agency must also keep current and publish a list of chemicals (1) that are being considered in the prioritization process, (2) for which prioritization decisions have been postponed, and (3) that are designed as high- or low-priority chemicals.
  • When unreasonable risks are identified, the EPA must take final risk management action within 2 years or 4 years if an extension is needed.
  • Within 2 years, the EPA must develop any policies, procedures, and guidance necessary to carry out the bill’s requirements with respect to (1) requesting safety data from manufacturers or processors, (2) prioritizing existing chemicals for evaluation of their risks, (3) reviewing new chemicals or significant new uses of existing chemicals, and (4) conducting safety assessments and safety determinations on whether a chemical meets the safety standard. Those policies, procedures, and guidances must be reviewed every 5 years and revised as necessary to reflect new scientific developments or understandings.
  • Within 9 months, the EPA must publish a list of those chemical substances it has a reasonable basis to conclude are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT). Within 2 years after enactment, the EPA must designate as a chemical of concern each chemical substance on the PBT list. Not later than 2 years after this designation, the Agency must promulgate a rule with respect to the chemical substance to reduce likely exposure to the extent practicable.
  • Any confidential business information (CBI) claims to protect the specific identities of existing, active chemicals on the list from disclosure would need to be reaffirmed and substantiated. The EPA must maintain both a confidential and nonconfidential portion of its chemical inventory. Within 5 years of compiling that list of active chemicals, the EPA must establish a plan to review all CBI claims.
Funding

Also, the law provides a means for the Agency to collect the money it will need to do all of the above and more. Specifically, the statute allows the Agency to collect up to $25 million a year in user fees from chemical manufacturers and processors in addition to supplements approved by Congress.

The new TSCA law is here.

Source: BLR

“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.

%d bloggers like this: