OSHA looks for chemical safety update

National workplace safety regulators are starting to work on new regulations to prevent major chemical accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) asked the public to weigh on potential changes to its standards on Tuesday, which could pave the way for new rules for companies that deal with chemicals.

The action comes in response to President Obama’s executive order issued in the wake of the April explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. The order called for agencies to take several steps to beef up safety and security at chemical plants.

The Texas blast resulted in 15 deaths and was traced to its storage of ammonium nitrate, which can combust under certain conditions.

After the explosion, safety advocates including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), head of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that businesses were not paying attention to lists of best practices formulated by OSHA and other safety agencies.

In its notice on Tuesday, OSHA said that it wants the public to comment on whether it should update it rules for safe handling of highly hazardous chemicals as well as standards for explosives, flammable liquids and spray finishing. It is also curious whether its enforcement policies should be updated to crack down on companies that break the rules.

“OSHA will use the information received in response to this [request for information] to determine what actions, if any, it may take,” it said.

Once the notice is formally published in the Federal Register, the public will have 90 days to submit comments.

 

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