President Obama signed Executive Order 13650 (Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security) into law August 1, 2013. Essentially, the Executive Order aims to streamline the policy-making initiatives for the betterment of the whole industry, which will only be possible with improved coordination between the Federal government and partners, leaders and stakeholders at the local level. What does it mean for workers and facility owners?
Chemical handling and storage is extremely hazardous. According to the White House’s fact sheet, one only needs to remember the fatal plant explosion in Texas last April to know how serious chemical safety handling is and developing safety policies for example providing proper hazwoper training or hazard communication training for it should be a priority among stakeholders and government agencies. How many explosions have to take place before employers and federal agencies can take action? None—with Executive Order 13650 in place, explosions resulting from chemical mishandling can be abated, avoided and prevented.
Here’s a summary of the provisions of the Executive Order, based on the fact sheet:
Streamline operational coordination between state and local partners. An example of which is the development of a plan within 90 days to ensure that key information with regards to preventing and addressing chemical emergencies is made available to security advisors, state and tribal emergency response commissions, local and tribal emergency planning committees, regulating bodies and first responders.
Improve information exchange between stakeholders and federal agencies. The Executive Order requires federal agencies to develop participatory and collaborative activities that will help the industry determine high-risk facilities, and conduct inspections and investigations better through improved inspection and incidence documentations, safety programs, and forged partnerships. This provision specifically aims to improve data sharing and collection about chemical facilities.
Policy updates. Private sectors, federal agencies and stakeholders are required to examine existing regulations and policies to determine whether these laws still apply and effectively reduce risks concerning chemical safety handling and security. The White House cites the recent EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), OSHA, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives advisory on ammonium nitrate a perfect example on how agencies are working at providing facilities, emergency responders and workers safer alternatives on how to store, handle and sell the explosive chemical.
Improving industry best practices. The Executive Order mandates federal agencies to hold regular conventions or meetings with stakeholders and all parties involved to share success stories in terms of mitigating chemical safety and security risks as well as best practices that each one can emulate.