CSB Commends Center for Chemical Process Safety Response to Reactive Hazards Study Recommendations, Says CCPS "Exceeds Recommended Action"

June 30, 2004

Orlando, Florida, June 30, 2004 - The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has formally commended the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), an arm of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), for exceeding the CSB's recommended action contained in the CSB report on reactive hazards in 2002.

CSB Chairman Carolyn Merritt announced the Board action at a CCPS international conference in Orlando, Florida, today.

Chairman Merritt said, "The work done by the CCPS in producing important safety information materials and in promoting safety programs has undoubtedly increased awareness of reactive chemical hazards, hopefully leading to an increase in safety. The CCPS not only accomplished the actions we recommended to them, but went far beyond, leading the board to vote to designate the status of our recommendations as "Closed-Exceeds Recommended Action.""

The two-year reactive hazard investigation uncovered 167 serious chemical accidents over a 20-year period that involved uncontrolled chemical reactions. These accidents caused 108 deaths as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. The Board concluded that reactive chemical accidents pose a significant problem and recommended that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revise federal process safety regulations to better control these hazards. The report also contained a series of nonregulatory recommendations, including the two directed to CCPS.

The CCPS works to promote safety in chemical facilities. It is operated by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, a professional association of more than 50,000 members that describes itself as providing leadership in advancing the chemical engineering profession."

The 2002 CSB reactive hazard report noted, "Current good practice guidelines on how to effectively manage reactive hazards throughout the life cycle of a chemical manufacturing process are neither complete nor sufficiently explicit." The CSB asked CCPS to develop comprehensive guidelines. In commending the CCPS, the CSB said that the safety group published in April 2003 a book called Essential Practices for Managing Chemical Reactive Hazards, for use by chemical manufacturers, handlers, users and bulk storage facilities, providing valuable tools and references. The CCPS went beyond that, subsequently forming a partnership with government and industry to publish the guide, which is now available without charge through the websites of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition, the CCPS also led efforts to organize a major conference on chemical reactivity hazards and is working now towards the creation of a government-industry roundtable to bring experts together to help resolve safety issues, the CSB said.

A second recommendation called on CCPS to communicate the hazard report's findings to its members, and was also deemed to have exceeded recommended actions: CCPS held meetings and conferences of its members to disseminate the information, inviting CSB investigators and Board members to participate. AIChE also published a paper by CSB investigators in its journal, reaching its 50,000 members. Reactive chemicals are those that can undergo potentially hazardous chemical reactions if not managed properly. These uncontrolled reactions can cause fires, explosions, and toxic gas releases. An example of a reactive hazard is a runaway reaction, where one or more chemicals suddenly react or decompose, accompanied by steep and accelerating temperature increases. In the confines of a chemical reactor or storage tank, such severe heating can result in a dangerous pressure increase, a vessel rupture, or an explosion. Just such a runaway reaction and vessel rupture occurred at a Morton International facility in New Jersey in 1998, triggering the Board's special investigation.

The CSB is an independent federal agency established in 1998 with the mission to protect workers, the public, and the environment by investigating and preventing chemical accidents. The CSB determines the root causes of these accidents and makes safety recommendations to government agencies, companies, and other organizations. The CSB does not issue fines or citations or apportion responsibility for accidents.

The effective development and tracking of recommendations, designed to correct safety deficiencies, are key to the CSB's chemical accident prevention efforts. Recommendations developed by the investigations staff are approved by majority vote of the Board, as are formal designations of responses to action taken. For those in the closed status, designations include "Unacceptable," "Acceptable," and "Exceeds Recommended Action." For the latter, action must meet and surpass the objectives of the recommendation as envisioned by the Board. Additional information is available from www.CSB.gov.

For further information contact Sandy Gilmour Communications at (202) 261-7614 or (202) 251-5496 (cell).


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