News Release USDL: 96-516
Friday, December 13, 1996
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 219-8151
OSHA/EPA To Undertake Joint Chemical Accident Investigations
The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) are working jointly to identify and publicize root causes
of chemical accidents and develop recommendations for preventing
similar incidents in the future.
Both OSHA and EPA, through their respective statutes, have
authority to investigate major chemical accidents. Under the
memorandum of understanding signed recently by the two agencies
that is now in effect, they will cooperate to jointly investigate
major chemical accidents and releases for root causes and will
publish the results of these investigations in joint reports.
"This agreement illustrates how the Clinton Administration
is streamlining and improving government," said Assistant
Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A.
Dear, who administers OSHA. "Instead of the two agencies working
separately to investigate a major chemical accident, they will
coordinate activities to eliminate overlap and duplication. The
result will be a better investigation that can provide useful
information to prevent a recurrence of such an accident."
Chemical accidents or releases characterized by one or more
of the following circumstances will be candidates for joint
investigation: 1) one or more fatalities; 2) hospitalization of
three or more persons; 3) property damage estimated at $500,000
or more; 4) a serious threat to worker health or safety, public
health, property or the environment; 5) significant off-site
consequences such as large-scale evacuations, closing of major
transportation routes, substantial environmental contamination or
injury to domestic or wild animals; or 6) significant public
OSHA and EPA will select for joint investigation events that
represent an opportunity to learn and/or disseminate important
lessons about chemical accident prevention. If one agency elects
not to investigate a chemical accident for root causes, the other
agency reserves the right to conduct an independent causal
investigation and issue its own report. The agencies will not
conduct separate causal investigations and issue separate reports
on the same accident.
Joint reports will include a description of the accident and
response; observations and findings; any laboratory test results;
discussion of the accident's probable root causes and
contributing factors; a list of further planned activities; and
recommendations for enhancing chemical safety, increasing
emergency preparedness and preventing chemical accidents.
Reports may be reviewed by independent experts before issuance.
The agreement calls for the agencies to share information
and data and to make available training and technical assistance
to the other agency's staff. EPA will work with the 23 states
that run their own OSHA programs to negotiate similar agreements
on chemical accident investigations, and OSHA will make the
resources of its chemical accident investigation team available
to the states.
Copies of the OSHA/EPA memorandum of understanding on
chemical accident investigations will be available on OSHA's
Internet home page (http://www.osha.gov/) shortly under "What's