President issues executive order to increase safety of chemical facilities
A variety of programs and initiatives between federal agencies and stakeholders are mandated under an order issued by President Obama. The executive order, issued in August, aims to improve the safety and security of handling and storing hazardous chemicals to reduce risks to workers, as well as surrounding communities.
"Chemicals, and the facilities where they are manufactured, stored, distributed, and used, are essential to today's economy. Past and recent tragedies have reminded us, however, that the handling and storage of chemicals are not without risk," the president said. "The federal government has developed and implemented numerous programs aimed at reducing the safety risks and security risks associated with hazardous chemicals. However, additional measures can be taken by executive departments and agencies with regulatory authority to further improve chemical facility safety and security in coordination with owners and operators."
The executive order calls for the establishment of the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group to be cochaired by the secretary of Homeland Security, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the secretary of Labor, or their designated representatives at the assistant secretary level or higher.
"The Working Group shall convene stakeholders, including chemical producers, chemical storage companies, agricultural supply companies, state and local regulators, chemical critical infrastructure owners and operators, first responders, labor organizations representing affected workers, environmental and community groups, and consensus standards organizations, in order to identify and share successes to date and best practices to reduce safety risks and security risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals, including through the use of safer alternatives, adoption of best practices, and potential public-private partnerships," the order says.
Among its responsibilities, the working group will:
- Develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identifies improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs within 90 days of the order.
- Engage key stakeholders to discuss the options and other means to improve chemical risk management that may be available.
- Within 90 days of completing the outreach and consultation effort, develop a plan for implementing practical and effective improvements to chemical risk management.
By Nancy Grover
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September 23, 2013
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