Cooperation and Education Key For Chemical Sector Safety
NACD, ACC Work Together to Educate Public And Combat Reputational Vulnerabilities in the Chemical IndustryNational Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) Details Work Toward a Shared Vision of Safety for the Chemical Sector
"Manufacturers and distributors have a compelling self-interest to educate value chain members and other communities on chemicals process safety, distribution, and use," says Cal Dooley, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC).
Dooley, a keynote speaker at this year's NACD annual meeting, says the pressing need for cooperation is increasingly apparent because the entire chemicals value chain is often held hostage by events beyond its control.
"When we look at the reputational vulnerabilities facing the chemicals industry," Dooley says, "it is incumbent on us, and our two associations, to collaborate. That collaboration will allow for expansion in the number of companies in the value chain that will embrace best practices to mitigate environmental harm, and to ensure the health and safety of employees, and their communities."
He cites the January 2014 leak of an estimated 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol(4-MCHM) from a Freedom Industries storage tank on the banks of the Elk River. This breakdown contaminated the water supply of Charleston, West Virginia, the state capital, denying fresh water supplies to some 300,000 residents for three days.
Dooley also refers to the explosion and fire at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas, in April 2013. That incident killed 12 emergency responders and three civilians, injured more than 150 residents of the nearby town, and caused about $230m-worth of damage in the area.
The West Fertilizer disaster was especially noteworthy because the site seemingly operated below the radar of federal and state regulators, as well as process safety officials in government and the private sector.
According to investigators and testimony before Congress, the incident began with a fire of unknown origin in one of the facility's warehouses, and it soon ignited some 30 tons of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate (AN).
The Congressional testimony indicated the West facility lacked even basic and fundamental precautions, such as a sprinkler system or other means to detect and suppress a fire automatically.
In addition, witnesses noted the AN was stored in combustible wooden bins, and significant amounts of combustible seeds were stored in the same warehouse.
In all, it was a set of circumstances that would violate multiple tenets of both ACC's Responsible Care© program and NACD's Responsible Distribution® standards.
Dooley notes that he was not surprised that neither Freedom Industries or West Fertilizer was a member of ACC or NACD. However, the broader chemicals industry was still painted with the disasters' brush.
That is why, Dooley says, "the chemicals sector must proactively engage with regulators and community leaders as well as industry to educate. We must demonstrate that our associations are committed to facilitating the dialog between more companies in the chemical value chain. We must encourage them embrace best practices that ensure we protecting the environment, and ensuring health and safety in the production and use of our chemical products."
That goal was reflected in the September 8 workshop in Charleston, WV, hosted by NACD, ACC and the West Virginia Manufacturers Association. The day-long session also included training by the New York City-based Center for Chemical Process Safety, a unit of the American Institute for Chemical Engineers.
Key to that workshop, and an example to be emulated, says Dooley, was the participation by West Virginia manufacturing companies that are not directly involved in the chemicals manufacturing or distribution sectors.
"Part of our commitment in West Virginia is to work with state associations, that don't have members aligned with our associations, and who are not part of our Responsible Care and Responsible Distribution programs," he says.
"It helps to identify companies that could benefit, while creating venues and opportunities for us to provide education and exposure of our programs and other practices that enhance process safety," he adds.