The EPA Proposes a New Risk Management Program – Is Your Lab Ready?

Chemical Regulations

The right information can reduce chemical accidents
Better Information can help reduce the number of chemical accidents each year.
Image source: LCPL Patrick McMahon via Wikimedia.org

The statistics on chemical spills in the United States are truly shocking. According to the National Response Center, over 25,000 documented chemical spills have occurred every year since 1991. These spills have led to at least 500 or more deaths annually over the same period of time. In today’s modern society, this should be unacceptable.

Lowering these tragic figures will take a concerted effort on the part of laboratories, communities and government programs. It is time to get involved.

One easy way that we can work to improve safety standards is to add a comment to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new proposed Risk Management Program. The EPA decided to modify the Risk Management Program after unfortunate incidents like the one in West, Texas, and the water contamination that occurred in West Virginia earlier this year.

The proposal is fairly detailed, so to help you jump in, I have highlighted a few key points that could potentially have an impact on laboratory operations:

  • Section C-1: Under the original Risk Management Plan, chemicals where either categorized as toxic or flammable. Under the new proposed plan, the EPA is asking whether these two categories should be expanded to include other aspects. They are also asking if the categories should be further expanded to include high or low explosives, reactive substances and reactive hazards.
  • Section D-5: In the current Risk Management Program, laboratories that store or use chemicals have a choice regarding developing an emergency response. They can either develop their own emergency response plan to respond to chemical accidents, or leave it to the surrounding community to develop an emergency response plan with their input. Unfortunately, the EPA discovered that most facilities left the burden of response with the community, but did not communicate effectively with them regarding their stored chemicals. This resulted in most emergency response plans not including a proper components or actions. With the new proposal, the EPA is asking whether the Risk Management Program should include language that specifically states that laboratories must accept responsibility for the emergency plan unless the community specifically agrees to be the responder.
  • Section D-8: The current Risk Management Program was designed in 1996. Since that time, the ability to share information with the public has increased substantially. Under the new proposed requirement, the EPA would require that laboratories post chemical hazard related information on a public website, including information regarding chemical names, quantities and even safety data sheets.

Regardless of whether you decide to comment or not on the proposal, the only way to lower the number of accidents, injuries and deaths each year is to ensure that you have accurate information on hand regarding current chemical content. This information can then be provided with employees and communities so that everyone will know how to respond. And although accurate information can be maintained manually, it is easier to use a chemical inventory management system.

The benefits of a chemical inventory management system include the ability to generate a report that shows each chemical stored on site and their categorization. It also shows the quantity of each chemical as well as where each is stored. This is the type of information can be provided to first responders prior to an accident so they will know how to act. It can also be used to reduce any risk by lowering the amount of chemicals stored on site.

The number of chemical accidents that occur each year is astounding and must be addressed. By becoming more involved in regulation development and sharing information regarding chemicals with employees and communities, we can reduce the number of accidents each year. For more information regarding how Accelrys CISPro can improve chemical information management at your laboratory, please visit our website today.

2 thoughts on “The EPA Proposes a New Risk Management Program – Is Your Lab Ready?

  1. I think having a public website is a good idea but also maybe have some kind of warning system like the EAS to inform ppl of the danger.

  2. Matt, this is an excellent idea as well. I hope you had a chance to comment on the EPA’s website as well

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