News Release 98-3
Friday, September 25, 1998
Contact: Bill Wright (202) 219-8151
OSHA, Chemical Safety Board Sign Memorandum of Understanding
AGREEMENT WILL ENHANCE CHEMICAL INCIDENT INVESTIGATIONS
Cooperation and understanding between two federal agencies will
ensure more effective investigations into the cause of chemical-related
incidents, thanks to a memorandum of understanding signed today by
the heads of the two agencies charged with investigating and
preventing such accidents.
Charles N. Jeffress, assistant secretary of labor for occupational
safety and health, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA), and Dr. Paul L. Hill, Jr., chairman, U.S. Chemical Safety
and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), signed the joint agreement
in a ceremony at the Labor Department.
"This is a significant document because it fosters understanding
and cooperation by both agencies, while not inhibiting either one
of us from doing our job," explained Jeffress. "Through
coordination, information sharing and other means, our agencies
can determine the cause of an incident, whether violations were
committed, and design preventive measures. The bottom line is
that worker's health and safety, as well as the general public's,
is protected and enhanced."
"The signing of this agreement is a milestone in the short
history of the CSB and an enhancement of what has already been a
close working relationship with our friends at OSHA," Dr. Hill
said. "Today we have taken a notable step forward in our mission
to protect worker safety and reduce the likelihood of chemical
The CSB, an independent federal agency modeled after the National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), investigates serious chemical
accidents to determine and identify causes and make recommendations
to regulatory agencies, such as OSHA and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency to help prevent future similar incidents. OSHA's
primary goal following a chemical accident is to determine an
employer's compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act
and OSHA regulations.
The agreement signed today sets in motion a working relationship
between the two agencies, and covers general policy and coordination
procedures. Aside from establishing those procedures, the memorandum
of understanding minimizes duplication of activities so each agency
can carry out its specific statutory requirements.
The agreement focuses on six specific issues:
(1) Incident Notification. Both agencies will continue
to be notified of chemical releases by the National Response Center.
The agreement specifies that both agencies will notify each other
if an incident results in one or more worker fatalities, the hospitalization
of three or more workers, property damage of more than $500,000, or
if the incident presents serious threats to worker and public safety.
(2) Incident Investigation. OSHA will continue to
investigate employer compliance with the Occupational Safety and
Health Act and OSHA regulations. CSB will continue to determine
the cause or probable cause of the incident.
(3) Information Sharing. Both agencies will coordinate
fact-finding efforts. However, because CSB is not an enforcement agency,
and to ensure that it is not perceived to be an extension of such an
agency, its investigative activities will be separate and distinct
from other on-site agencies with enforcement authority. OSHA and CSB
will publicly release its own agency information; however, such
releases will be coordinated with each other to ensure proper disclosure.
(4) Training, Technical and Professional Assistance. OSHA
and CSB will make available their chemical incident and related training
programs to personnel from both agencies. The agreement also encourages
the sharing of technical assistance during incident investigations.
(5) Incident Investigation Reports. CSB will coordinate the
release of public statements and public reports with OSHA. Such
coordination will ensure that any on-going enforcement actions by
OSHA are not jeopardized.
(6) Inter-Agency Assistance. The agreement specifies
that if the CSB elects not to send an investigation team to a chemical
incident, they can request incident information from other on-site
agencies, including OSHA.
The principal points of contact designated in the agreement are
the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement (OSHA) and the Director,
Office of Investigations (CSB).
The news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at
http://www.osha.gov/ under media releases and at http://www.chemsafety.gov.
Additionally, the full text of the MOU is also available via both agency's
web sites. Information on this news release will be made available to
sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 219-8151
(OSHA) and (202) 261-7600 (CSB).