OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
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 concern.
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 New."
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