Come One, Come All: Public Listening Sessions for Chemical Safety

To all of our fellow chemical safety enthusiasts: did you know the U.S. government is stepping up its game this fall? What’s more, by presidential mandate, governmental organizations are hereby required to listen to YOU! In fact, this morning the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group met for the third of many times for the express purpose of gathering public feedback about chemical safety. The purpose? To carry out the President’s executive order to safeguard the manufacture, use, and transportation of chemicals within the U.S.

The Precedent: Fatal Explosion in Texas

Leading up to the occurrence, the Texan West Fertilizer Company had already violated numerous safe storage and handling laws pertaining to explosive materials. Not only did the equipment fail inspections, but workers were also inadequately trained in normal handling and emergency procedures.

When a small fire broke out at the fertilizer plant on April 17, it ended up in disaster. Firefighters tried to quench the flames, but the fire soon reached a store of explosive chemicals. The resulting blast killed 15 people, injured 160, and partially destroyed the surrounding neighborhood.

A Presidential Call to Action

On August 1, 2013, President Obama established the Working Group with a clear call to action: to prevent another incident like the April 17 explosion. His mandate calls for collaboration between the co-chairs: the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, the Working Group must collect data from stakeholders in chemical safety, which includes key players in the industry, organizations, and concerned members of the public.

Public Listening Sessions: Get Involved!

The webinar held this morning, November 25, was the third in a series of many meetings open to the public. It has been fascinating to follow the listening sessions, as they reveal many takes on chemical safety standards. We’ll keep you up to date, as developments brew! Among the topics of discussion have been replacement of dangerous chemicals that can be used to make weapons, more stringent requirements on the acceptable quantity and location of chemical storage; and stricter chemical transportation laws.

The Working Group will release its first set of recommendations next month, as well as hold more online webinars in December and January. We foresee much more discussion of information sharing between federal, state, and local governments, as well as with first responders.

Listening Sessions: How Can You Participate?

If you have special interest in participating, it’s easy and free to do so! The Working Group wants to hear from chemical producers and suppliers, labor organizations, community groups, and just about anyone who’s passionate about chemical safety. Look for more public discussions in person and online on December 11 and 16, as well as next January. We’ll keep you posted on the news from these forums! They’re an incredible opportunity to be at the cutting edge of improved safety standards, and be involved with a lively discussion of the best practices possible for chemical safety.

Until next time – check out our website for the right tools to bring your laboratory to the forefront of chemical safety today!

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