OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
Workers and firefighters battling emergencies involving hazardous substances -- such as fires, explosions or chemical releases -- will be better protected, thanks to new safeguards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The new protection includes strengthened workplace requirements for emergency planning and coordination with local fire departments and a revised training course on emergency response for federal and state officials.
"Preparation and training are vital to saving human lives when hazardous emergencies occur," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. " A fire or explosion is no time to find out that an emergency plan is not in place or is inadequate to meet the needs of a crisis situation. That is why we are strengthening protections for both workers and the firefighters on whom they often depend."
The new directive incorporates and clarifies agency policy originally issued in an Oct. 30, 1996, memorandum involving employer compliance with OSHA standards for hazardous waste and emergency response operations and employee emergency and fire prevention plans.
That memorandum resulted from an April 1995 fire and explosion at Napp Technologies, Inc., a chemical plant in Lodi, N.J., in which five workers -- all emergency responders -- were killed. OSHA found that the fire department had not been notified prior to the evacuation of the plant for a chemical emergency and that some of the company's emergency responders, including those who died, were inadequately trained and equipped.
The new directive requires OSHA compliance officers inspecting a private sector facility for compliance with hazardous waste and emergency response conditions to contact the local fire department to determine whether the employer has notified them concerning the company's emergency response plan. This includes coordinating the circumstances or conditions under which outside responders will provide emergency response to the site or facility.
Without adequate coordination, fire departments and other emergency responders may not be trained and equipped to carry out the role that an employer might need in an emergency.
The directive requires a minimum of two backup personnel outside any hazardous area during an emergency response. The revised OSHA respiratory protection standard issued in January 1998 also requires two backup personnel.
Detailed guidelines to determine the adequacy of the employer's plans for handling an emergency are included in the directive.
The directive is CPL 2-2.59A titled,"Inspection Procedures for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, 29 CFR 1910.120, Paragraph (q): Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases." It is available on the Internet through OSHA's home page(http://www.osha.gov) by going to "Other Documents" and then "Directives." Paper copies are available through the OSHA Publications Office at (202) 219-4667 or fax: (202) 219-9266.
OSHA is offering a revised four-day training course on emergency response to hazardous substance releases that will emphasize points made in the directive. It will be available for OSHA compliance officers, consultation program consultants, and representatives of other federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. The course is being offered at the OSHA Training Institute in Des Plaines, Ill. phone: (847)-297-4810.
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