Agency Leadership Highlights Progress in Reducing Report Backlog
Washington, D.C. January 4, 2023 – Today, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) marks its 25th anniversary. Established by the Clean Act Amendments of 1990, the CSB began operations on January 5, 1998.
CSB Chairperson Steve Owens said, “The CSB is a small agency, but it has a very big – and very important – mission: to help ensure that chemical facilities are operated safely and that communities, workers and the environment are protected from chemical disasters. The CSB has made a huge difference over the last 25 years, but it has faced a number of challenges recently, including a long-standing backlog in investigations reports. We are working hard to rebuild and revitalize the CSB, and we are reducing the report backlog.”
Owens and Board Member Sylvia Johnson joined the CSB in February 2022. Owens was named the CSB’s Interim Executive in late July after the former CSB chair resigned, and at the same time he was nominated by President Biden to be the new CSB Chairperson.
Since that time, the CSB has made major progress in reducing the report backlog.The CSB completed and issued six investigations reports over a five-month period at the end of 2022 – after not issuing any reports for over ten months before then. The six reports are:
Along with completing and releasing the six final investigation reports, the CSB also issued updates on five other investigations during the last four months of 2022. The agency previously had stopped providing such updates during 2021.
Additionally, in September 2022, the CSB deployed a team to investigate the fatal fire and explosion at the BP-Husky Refinery in Ohio. Before this, the CSB had not undertaken a deployment in 14 months.
During the last three months of 2022, the CSB also released three new safety videos, which to date collectively have been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube. Most notably, the agency’s video on the PES Refinery fire and explosion, received one million views in the first week after its release, more than any other CSB video has ever received in such a short time.
Further, the CSB has taken important actions to increase transparency and provide more information to the public.
Among other actions, the CSB has begun posting data on chemical incidents reported to the CSB under the agency’s Accidental Release Reporting Rule, which went into effect in 2020. As of December 26, 2022, the data covers 224 chemical incidents that resulted in 31 fatalities, 126 serious injuries and substantial property damage to more than 100 chemical facilities nationwide. “We believe that the public has a right to know about chemical accidents that occur in their communities,” CSB Chairperson Owens said.
In addition, beginning in late July, the CSB has reinstated public comments at CSB Board meetings. The prior chairperson had stopped taking public comments at the meetings.
Board Member Sylvia Johnson said, “The CSB maintains its focus to deploy and move reports forward. Utilizing all our resources, we know that the agency can continue to stay on target and complete additional investigations in the first half of this year. We look forward to a productive and successful year.”
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating incidents and hazards that result, or may result, in the catastrophic release of extremely hazardous substances. The agency’s core mission activities include conducting incident investigations; formulating preventive or mitigative recommendations based on investigation findings and advocating for their implementation; issuing reports containing the findings, conclusions, and recommendations arising from incident investigations; and conducting studies on chemical hazards.
The agency's board members are appointed by the president subject to Senate confirmation. The Board does not issue citations or fines but makes safety recommendations to companies, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.
Please visit our website, www.csb.gov. For more information, contact Communications Manager Hillary Cohen at [email protected]