The EPA is gaining authority to regulate chemical and petroleum facilities much more tightly. In September of 2015, the EPA requested to add new risk reduction measures to its list of initiatives. The EPA will now begin its assessments, forcing companies to change their chemical compliance policies.
In 2013, an explosion occurred in West, Texas at a fertilizer plant. This accident killed fifteen people and damaged over 150 buildings in the area. The aftermath resulted in President Obama's Executive Order 13650, which requires that the EPA assess how to improve chemical facility safety to prevent something like this from occurring again.
As it turns out, the West, Texas accident exposed a lot of flaws in the safety regulations of chemical facilities. There were no sprinklers installed in the facility, and the chemicals were being stored in wooden, combustible containers. This facility was still operating on safety codes that could be as old as the 1950s and 1960s.
Building on previous rules, the EPA is calling its new strategy the Risk Management Modernization Rule, which will force companies to adopt stricter PHA (process hazard analysis) strategies both before and after accidents. This change will have a significant impact on larger companies and how they adopt chemical compliance strategies to make a safer workplace.
Companies will not only be required to report how the accident occurred, but what can be changed in their management strategies. The company must complete the investigation within a year and retain the report for five years.
Although companies are already required to give PHA assessments, the current PHAs will be more in depth than before, requiring companies to rethink design, technology, and chemical compliance from outdated materials Companies must also adopt passive measures (no human or mechanical involvement) to detect warning signs of an accident, as well as active measures (relying on mechanical means). Increased public availability of cheimal hazard information will also be necessary. Finally, companies will have to rethink procedural and training exercises for employees, and the EPA will also require companies to report to local emergency enforcement on an annual basis.
The EPA's regulations will extend to all facilities involved in the production of paper, petroleum, coal, and chemical products. Companies who fall into these categories would do well to take action before the EPA begins its assessments.