Former EPA head calls for stronger chemical plant safety plan

COSHOCTON, Ohio — May 19, 2016 — Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christine Todd Whitman sent a letter to current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agency to strengthen the proposed rule designed to improve the safety and security of U.S. chemical plants.

Whitman welcomed the agency’s March proposal that certain high-risk chemical plants assess the feasibility of using so-called inherently safer technologies (IST) to reduce the threat to public health and safety from either an accidental or deliberately caused release of hazardous substances.

To strengthen the regulations, Whitman wants IST analyses performed by a broader scope of high-risk facilities, such as water treatment plants and chlorine bleach plants, with the findings submitted to the EPA. These analyses should also be completed much sooner than the four years required in the proposed rule, she said.

Additionally, Whitman argued that facilities which identify economically and technologically feasible alternatives to current practices should be required to implement those alternatives on a reasonable schedule.

She also advised the EPA to create a publicly available source to which facilities could refer, containing detailed information about safer chemical processes and substances, including details about the implementation, cost, efficacy and feasibility of such alternatives.

Report calls for immediate action in oil and gas worker safety

COSHOCTON, Ohio — April 27, 2016 — According to a report by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, (AFL-CIO), oil and gas workers’ deaths on the job are nearly five times the national average.

While coal mining deaths were down in 2014 and 2015, oil and gas workplace deaths accounted for 79 percent of all fatalities in the mining industry in 2014, noted the organization. The report said that because the Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA) does not protect oil and gas workers, they may be more vulnerable than other mining workers.

Oil and gas workers are protected by the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), which the report said does not have standards that “address the additional safety and hazard risks of the industry.”

Under OSHA, oil and gas operations do not have mandatory, routine inspections, unlike the MSHA-regulated coal industry.

Ohio ethanol plant accused of 46 safety and health violations

COSHOCTON, Ohio — May 10, 2016 — An ethanol production facility operated by Three Rivers Energy in Coshocton, Ohio, faces $149,800 in fines after OSHA inspectors found multiple violations of chemical and grain-handling standards.

OSHA issued 42 serious and four other-than serious safety and health violations following three separate inspections at the bio-refinery in November 2015.

Among the violations, OSHA said that Three Rivers Energy’s ethanol production violated process safety management regulations including failing to:

  • Develop written procedures for safely conducting tasks in the process, and for maintaining the ongoing integrity of equipment.
  • Train operators.
  • Correct equipment deficiencies.
  • Establish an incident investigation team and maintain accurate records.
  • Maintain adequate drawings and diagrams of pipes and instruments used in the chemical process.
  • Implement an emergency response plan for the plant and train workers in emergency response procedures.

Jim Galvin, president of Three Rivers Energy, said in a statement that the company had 677 days of zero incidents reported on-site to date.