Following a devastating explosion of a fertilizer plant that caused fifteen deaths in 2013, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) intends to change the regulations related to chemical facility safety and security. Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers know that OSHA had not investigated the West Texas plant where the explosion took place since 1985, at which time the plant was fined $30 for violations found by the agency after the inspection. When the Administration conducted an investigation into the fertilizer plant after the deadly explosion in 2013, it found rule violations that prompted 24 citations. The total proposed OSHA fines for the fertilizer plant’s citations was set at $118,300.Unfortunately, OSHA’s citations after the fact are not able to bring back the 15 people who lose their lives, nor can the citations restore the health of the more than 300 people who were injured in the fertilizer blast. The new regulations on chemical facility safety and security, if they move forward, could potentially help to save lives in the future but only if employers obey the new rules and do all they are supposed to in order to keep workers and the public safe.
OSHA’s Proposed New Chemical Safety Rules
OSHA is proposing a change in chemical storage and safety in response to Executive Order 13650, which was issued by the President of the United States in August in an effort to facilitate the establishment of new regulations after the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion. The relevant executive order outlined several steps to take including the following:
- Establish a Chemical Facility Safety working group.
- Improve coordination of operations among state, local and tribal partners to work together to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities.
- Enhance federal coordination on matters related to the safety and security of chemical facilities.
- Modernize regulations, policies and standards to account for current conditions and to improve risk management practices.
- Identify best practices to reduce safety risks.
In response to the executive order, OSHA has proposed changes to its Process Safety Management Standard; its Explosive and Blasting agents standard; its Flammable Liquids standard; its Spray Finishing standards; and its PSM enforcement policies.
The proposed changes have now been opened up for public comment. The public will have 90 days to review the RFI that OSHA is publishing outlining its changes. The RFI will be published in the federal register and comments can be submitted online, via mail or via fax.
Once the comment period closes, it is likely that OSHA will move forward in some capacity to try to pass regulations that will reduce the risk of another devastating chemical plant explosion in the future.
However, with OSHA seriously understaffed and having limited power to issue large citations, the new standards may not necessarily be followed by all employers. For the standards to be a success at making people safer, it is essential that all employers follow OSHA guidelines. Employees can make a complaint to OSHA if an employer fails to do so, and can pursue a work injury claim for workers’ compensation if unsafe conditions cause harm on the job.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-866-328-4978 today.