Feb. 2, 2015
Contact: Office of Communications
OSHA, EPA, and Fertilizer Safety and Health Partners sign alliance to protect
workers and first responders from hazardous chemicals
WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today entered into an alliance with the Fertilizer Safety and Health Partners and the Environmental Protection Agency to provide safety and health information and training resources to workers, emergency responders and communities surrounding establishments in the agricultural retail and supply industry. The alliance will focus on the safe storage and handling of fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia.
"Incidents such as the horrific explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, that killed 15 people including emergency response personnel, highlight the hazards in storing and handling ammonium nitrate," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "These tragedies are preventable and this alliance shows that we are working together to address hazards, prevent injuries and save lives."
In response to the incident at the West Fertilizer Company, President Obama signed Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security*. The executive order directs the federal government to improve operational coordination with state and local partners; improve federal agency coordination and information sharing; modernize policies, regulations, and standards; and work with stakeholders to identify best practices. In response to the executive order, OSHA committed to forming an alliance with the fertilizer industry, emergency response organizations, and other federal agencies to develop solutions to promote best practices for ammonium nitrate safety.
The alliance emphasizes sharing emergency response information among agricultural business establishments, first responders and surrounding communities; as well as improving the safety and security of chemical facilities, reducing the risks of hazardous chemicals to workers and communities, educating workers on their rights and ensuring that employers understand their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
During the two-year agreement, the alliance will develop outreach materials and case studies on safe storage and handling of fertilizers and best practices for emergency response procedures in the event of releases of ammonia or fires in facilities that store ammonium nitrate. The alliance will also support other OSHA national outreach initiatives, including the prevention of heat illness among outdoor workers, the revised Hazard Communication Standard and the benefits of establishing a safety and health management system.
The Fertilizer Safety and Health Partners comprise the Agricultural Retailers Association, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Volunteer Fire Council, Fertilizer Institute, and Ammonia Safety Training Institute.
Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA inspections or any other enforcement benefits.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.
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