Relevant Documents Outlining the CSB's Unique Mission and Value in the Federal Government
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Background on the CSB
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the agency's board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Please refer to "About the CSB" on this web site for more information on the Board, its statutory authority, history, mission and other important background facts.
CSB Media Contacts
Reporters seeking information from the CSB should contact the following numbers and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillary Cohen, Communications Manager, at (202) 446-8094 cell or via email at email@example.com.
Referring to the CSB in Print and Broadcast
The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is an independent agency of the U.S. government, generally referred to as "the U.S. Chemical Safety Board" or "the CSB." Reporters sometimes refer to our investigators as "federal investigators," but to avoid confusion with federal law enforcement or regulatory agencies, we would greatly appreciate the media's cooperation in referring to us as "federal Chemical Safety Board investigators" or "investigators from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board."
Breaking News: Covering Chemical Accidents
When a serious accident occurs, the CSB Chairman may deploy one or more Board members, an investigative team, and a public affairs representative to the accident scene. This decision is generally made in consultation with other Board members, staff, local responders and other agencies. Whether a team is deployed depends on various considerations, including:
the severity of the accident consequences, such as deaths, injuries, environmental impact or property damage;
the nature of the facility and materials involved;
the actual and potential effects of the accident on members of the public, including emergency responders.
Once the CSB investigative team has arrived on site and conducted a preliminary assessment, a decision is made whether to launch a full-scale investigation, which leads to a determination of the root causes of the accident. The goal of all CSB investigations is to develop safety recommendations that will help prevent similar accidents in the future. All final CSB investigation reports are public documents.
What Information to Expect from the CSB
In the immediate aftermath of a chemical accident, public affairs staff may arrange for interviews with Board members or key staff by telephone or satellite from Washington, DC, as team members deploy to the accident site. Once the team is on site, the public affairs representative may arrange media interviews with the Board spokesperson, usually near the authorized news media area, or at a CSB-designated investigation headquarters nearby.
Depending on availability, the Board member or the lead investigator serves as the CSB spokesperson. Board members and investigators are seldom in a position to provide any factual information about accidents until they have begun interviewing plant operators and workers and conducted a preliminary inspection of the accident site. However, Board spokespeople can provide reporters with information about why the CSB is on the scene and what is involved in investigating these kinds of accidents.
As the investigation proceeds, Board members and investigators may be able to discuss potential accident scenarios or factual circumstances that have been discovered. It is important to caution, however, that most investigations take six months to a year to complete, and a final determination of causes requires a vote of the full Board. Until the investigation is complete, all statements, press releases, or other information should be treated as preliminary and subject to possible revision.
After the First Few Days of an Accident
CSB investigators may initially remain at an accident site for a period from several days to a number of weeks. Even after returning to headquarters, investigators usually return to a site periodically for further interviews and information gathering over the succeeding months. After the initial deployment, media contacts are generally handled from CSB headquarters in Washington, DC.
The CSB may convene a public hearing, board of inquiry or community meeting in the course of the investigation. Such events are usually held near the accident site and are open to the public and the news media. Preliminary findings from the investigation may be released at those meetings. The CSB may also issue periodic news releases on key facts or may issue a safety alert, should findings warrant immediate notification of similar facilities.
When a final investigation report is ready for Board consideration, the Board usually convenes a public meeting to review and approve the reports findings and recommendations. These meetings are conducted in Washington, DC, or in the affected communities, as appropriate. A press conference or media availability session is usually held in conjunction with these public meetings.
Accident Data and Records
The CSB does not maintain comprehensive accident databases or compile national statistics on chemical accidents. At the present time, no such comprehensive databases or statistics exist within the federal government. However the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Response Center (NRC), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and other agencies do maintain certain accident databases that vary in scope, completeness, and level of detail.
As a public service, the CSB compiles news reports of chemical accidents from around the country, available from this website in the Incident News Reports section. However, the information contained in these reports is not necessarily complete, has not been independently verified by the CSB, and should not be used to draw any statistical conclusions.
The CSB does not maintain inspection or enforcement records or information about chemical inventories at specific sites. Such records may be available from OSHA, EPA, and state and local authorities.
Arrangements with Other Agencies
While the CSB is an independent federal agency, we generally work in coordination with other federal, state, and local agencies that respond to an accident scene. Although CSB staff have authority to enter accident sites and gather evidence and records, the CSB does not control access to these sites and cannot arrange to admit members of the new media.
In certain cases, CSB's civil investigation occurs concurrently with a federal or state criminal investigation. Release of information may be limited while a criminal probe is ongoing.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), NTSB, EPA, OSHA, and ATSDR are among the other federal agencies that frequently deploy teams to chemical accident sites. The CSB maintains agreements, known as Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), with each of these agencies to ensure effective coordination in the field. In many cases, CSB's initial release of accident information may be conducted jointly with other responding federal agencies.