Following the catastrophic explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in Texas, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13650 on August 1st, 2013. The EO directed federal agencies to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities to reduce risks to workers, communities and first responders.
To do so, it established a working group, led by the DOL/OSHA, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Homeland Security, that would report back to the President with recommendations for improving policies, practices and coordination between industry, state, local, federal, other authorities as well as community and other public interest groups.
That report, “Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security – A Shared Commitment,” was released on June 6th, 2014.
A pilot project “Effective Chemical Risk Management Project” (ECRM2) was undertaken by the following 3 lead agencies - OSHA/EPA/DHS in the Federal Region 2 – which formed the ECRM2 working group. This workgroup recently completed a pilot to explore and document ways to improve this coordination.
The experiences gained during the pilot have been completed in a number of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to institutionalize the improvements identified. These SOPs are currently being rolled out to the regions via Regional Working Groups (RWGs) jointly chaired by OSHA, EPA, and DHS.
The Region 2 working group formed the following ECRM2 Objectives:
• Develop/deploy best practices
• Innovate/test new methods for interagency collaboration
• Integrate (regional) federal & state assets where appropriate
• Develop integrated Standard Operating Procedures
• Develop innovative approaches to collecting, storing and using facility information
• Include stakeholder engagement, inspection planning, and coordinated inspections of facilities
Subsequently, each Region within the Federal System was then tasked to continue the process began by the pilot Federal Region 2 (Federal Action Plan, Executive Summary, “Enhancing Federal Operational Coordination,” Page XIV).
Each Region is committed in developing similar SOPs within one year of the report.
Region 6 has now undertaken this process. The task of the Region 6 workgroup is to improve safety at facilities handling hazardous chemicals, as well as provide any assistance that may be required to enhance the safety of each States first responders.
The ECRM2 working group identified over 16 SOP’s. The Region 6 working group has identified approximately 8 potential SOPs (in the documents section) which OSHA/EPA/DHS will be working to develop.
As the workgroup develops each of the SOPs, the workgroup will be working with State and Federal counterparts to ensure the SOPs meet the needs of local planning and response officials.