In explosion's wake, fertilizer industry works for safety

In explosion's wake, fertilizer industry works for safety

July 1, 2013

By Ford West from The Hill's Congress Blog

"Two months have passed since the West, Texas fertilizer facility tragedy and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families that have been impacted. We are watching closely as the Chemical Safety Board investigation of the incident continues.  And we were eager to hear testimony yesteday in a hearing convened by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to prevent future threats.

Once a cause of the Texas tragedy is determined, the fertilizer industry will closely review the report and recommendations and work together to identify and apply any lessons learned. Our employees live and work in communities small and large across the country, and there is nothing more important than protecting our workers and their neighbors. The Chemical Safety Board’s investigation will likely take several months, but in the wake of this tragedy, we are acting now to take a number of concrete steps to strengthen our commitment to safety.  Those voluntary steps include reviewing what we are doing today and determining what can be enhanced; providing tools that explain and support compliance with federal and state regulations; and developing a Code of Practice that will include audits from independent experts.

Throughout the nation, fertilizer producers and retailers who handle ammonium nitrate are redoubling their safety efforts, reviewing the best ways to operate their facilities and making changes to make a difference.

For example, one facility decided to remove trash, grease guns and front-end loaders (which run on gasoline or diesel) from their building to minimize the presence of anything that could serve as an ignition source.

Fertilizer facilities are also meeting with local emergency responders in their communities to ensure they are aware of material stored on site and response procedures. Working hand in hand with local responders is an ongoing effort. A number of plants and fire departments already do joint training exercises.

There are numerous federal and state regulations that apply to fertilizers.  In May, we made an important tool available free of charge to agricultural retailers to help them check compliance with those regulations. That tool, developed by the non-profit Asmark Institute, also provides tips on how various companies are meeting those standards.  We are encouraging not just retailers, but also producers, wholesales, importers and state fertilizer associations to spread the word about the availability of this and other tools that help them comply with regulations."

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