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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 accidents."
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).
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