Expert: West Fertilizer Was Preventable By Following OSHA Regulations

Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) came out swinging today at the Senate EPW hearing titled: “Oversight of Federal Risk Management and Emergency Planning Programs to Prevent and Address Chemical Threats, Including the Events Leading Up to the Explosions in West, TX and Geismar, LA”.

Senators participating in the hearing included Chairwoman Boxer, Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), John Barrasso (R-WY), and John Boozman (R-AR).

The next congressional hearing will take place in August before the House Homeland Security Committee.

Top issues discussed at the hearing:

  • The West, TX plant was covered by a patchwork of regulations with some pretty large holes. Click here to view CSB Preliminary Findings on West Fertilizer Explosion.
  • CSB testified that West Fertilizer used a combustible (wooden) building with no sprinklers. Stored seed (organic material) next to AN with no firewall. Texas does not have fire code. Volunteer firefighters were not made aware of the risk that AN at the facility could explode – 12 firefighters and emergency responders were killed when AN suddenly detonated as they were fighting the initial fire. Other countries like the UK recommend that buildings and bins where AN store be noncombustible.
  • Dr. Sam Mannan, a chemical engineer, testified that if West Fertilizer followed OSHA regulations (29 CFR 109.1910(i)) (storage of AN – based on NFPA Code 490) the explosion likely would have been mitigated or prevented. He also pointed out that there should not be a duplication of regulations.
  • Adding “REACTIVE CHEMICALS” to EPA’s Risk Management Program including ammonium nitrate (AN). This recommendation is based upon a 2002 Chemical Safety Board report entitled ” Improving Reactive Hazard Management”.
  • EPA needs to update guidance, alerts and regulations for AN. It was pointed out at the hearing that EPA last issued guidance on AN was in December 1997.
  • EPA subpoena of the CSB West Fertilizer records causing a chilling effect for CSB to gather information from witnesses and industry. Information provided to CSB is supposed to remain confidential and not used in criminal or civil enforcement actions by other federal agencies.
  • EPA should use their “General Duty Clause” (GDC) authority to implement Inherently Safer Technology (IST) requirements on industry.
  • Rick Webre, Ascension Parish Office of Homeland Security (Louisiana), stated that “a well-managed LEPC is the most critical function that a community can perform to prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from an industrial accident” and “I don’t believe that more legislation is the answer.” He also said that complexity results in failure on scene. “Creating one common operating procedure between the chemical industry, the local 911 center, Emergency Operations Center and the first responders on scene is absolutely critical. Simple, inexpensive, graphically displayed, two page standard operating procedures can accomplish this”, stated Webre.
  • Paul Orum, Consultant for Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, promoted IST and adding products like AN to EPA RMP. He also recommends electronic access to EPCRA Tier 2 reports. Orum indicated support for the ” agricultural chemicals security tax credit assists agricultural distributors with conventional security measures such as fences and lights; it should assist facilities that want to move locally to safer locations.” Note – The ARA-initiated Agricultural Chemicals Security Tax Credit (included in the 2008 Farm Bill) expired on Dec. 31, 2012.  ARA has requested Congress extend this tax credit.
  • Asked CSB about interactions with TFI and ARA. CSB Chairman said they were in discussions with the two groups and CSB thought the Fertilizer Code of Practice Initiative was a good self-policing system with third party audits to prevent the possibility of future mistakes. Fertilizer COP and other industry initiatives should be used to compliment the work done by federal regulators.
  • Fischer asked about the difference between manufacturing and fertilizer blending. CSB said that manufacturing is a chemical process, and West Fert received materials that had already gone through this chemical process. West Fertilizer was a bulk storage and distribution facility. CSB agreed there should be different recommendations for chemical process facilities and storage facilities.

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Expert: West Fertilizer Was Preventable By Following OSHA Regulations

  1. Not enough people or organizations truly understand the relationships between local, state, and federal regulations (IFC/IBC/IMC/NFPA/CFR), and yes, even the IZC (anyone ever hear of this?), and the interdependencies they share, if applied correctly, and not just with AN, especially when requesting inherently safer technologies and land use restrictions. In order to make any judgment on such an issue, one must have a very thorough understanding of how they work together as well as independently. For example, zoning and land use restrictions: The purpose of this code is to safeguard the health, property and public welfare by controlling the design, location, use or occupancy of all buildings and structures through the regulated and orderly development of land and land uses within this jurisdiction." "The IZC is intended to provide for the arrangement of compatible buildings and land uses and establish provisions for the location of all types of uses, in the interest of the social and economic welfare of the community." Section 302.1 covers minimum areas, and allows each jurisdiction to indicate the desired acreage for each zoning districts that they choose. I am not aware of any specific distance requirements to buildings in the IZC, however in the other "I" codes, based on various factors, there are specific distance requirements established. Section 305 of the IZC addresses conditional uses. These conditional uses require particular considerations as to their proper location to adjacent, established or intended uses, or to the planned growth of the community. The conditions controlling the locations and operation of such special uses are established by the applicable sections of this code, and again, available for jurisdictional amendments. Unfortunately, not many jurisdictions may be aware of this particular code and the benefits (including any jurisdictional amendments they choose) that can be gained through orderly and systematic development. This, could in a reality, could benefit the implementation of the RMP should AN become regulated as an EHS

  2. "Chemical safety expert Sam Mannan of Texas A&M University told the committee that an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection could have prevented the disaster just by pouncing on how close a vast supply of explosive ammonium nitrate, stored in wood-framed bins, was kept to the seed area in a mostly wooden building." Is this truly a realistic, optimistic statement? Many can validate the inconsistencies among inspection agencies. The OSHA standard offers a 30' separation distance in lieu of a "fire wall;" however, if this distance was not physically possible, then the fire wall would be required (per OSHA). Who then, would provide oversight on its construction? Certainly not OSHA. How well does OSHA coordinate activities with the local building department? . Would the OSHA inspector also comment on the lack of sprinkler system or the inadequacy of fire hydrants in accordance with their own standards? Also doubtful as the ambiguity of fire hydrant requirements in OSHA does not make it possible for field verification, and the sprinkler system installation oversight is as ambiguous and poorly written as the other construction requirements in OSHA.

  3. Wait a minute! Does Federal Regulations in safety trump haphazard local codes? Will the responsible person, the individual making the big bucks because he has it all under control, stand and accept responsibility? The world waits and wonders. And in the meantime the destroyed families are still in shock. There are those that are pointing the finger at the government and trying to blame the Regulatory "establishment". Once again give them the responsibility but not the authority. Far too many have died. Hold the CEO accountable, put him in jail till the final decisions.

Fertilizer Stories

Yara West Sacramento Ribbon Cutting
Crop InputsYara West Sacramento Is Newest Addition
March 27, 2017
Yara’s West Sacramento Terminal was officially welcomed March 21 as the newest Yara North America facility in the U.S. While continually Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
Growing corn
Crop InputsLock Down Nitrogen For 2017 Profits
March 5, 2017
Managing nutrient programs to snuff out the three types of nitrogen loss — leaching, volatilization, and denitrification — is crucial Read More
Fertilizer Storage
Crop InputsThe State Of The Fertilizer Industry
February 9, 2017
He’s all hat, no horse.” It’s a humorous way of describing a person who tells a good story, but is Read More
Trending Articles
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teaching Fertilizer Education
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
AdjuvantsA New Weed-Control Era Begins: But First, One Last Obstacle
March 4, 2017
There is trepidation, there is reluctance, and there is excitement. Ag retailers feel it all about the new dicamba and Read More
LIFT Academy video screenshot
Crop InputsLIFT Agriculture Academy: A Q&A With West Central Distribution’s Dean Hendrickson
March 1, 2017
West Central Distribution recently launched its LIFT Agriculture Academy, a new, premiere training and professional development resource for West Central’s ag Read More
Farmer and aptop
Matt Hopkins10 Warning Signs Your Website Is Grossly Outdated
February 8, 2017
Your Website is often a visitor’s first impression of your ag retail business. A positive first impression can set the Read More
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Latest News
ManagementStudy: Farming Becoming Riskier Under Climate Change
March 28, 2017
Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex Read More
Young Corn Plants
Crop NutritionProtecting Nitrogen Provides Economic, Environmental RO…
March 28, 2017
Every business looks to improve its return on investment and reduce its risk of loss. Farmers are no different, yet Read More
Water Drainage
Eric SfiligojDMWW Lawsuit Dismissal Good News for Ag
March 27, 2017
On March 17 while most of the nation was toasting St. Patrick’s Day, agriculture was likely lifting a glass (or Read More
Eric Jenks, Wilbur-Ellis
Crop InputsWilbur-Ellis Launches ADVANTIGRO Plant Growth Regulator…
March 27, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis Agribusiness, a recognized leader in the marketing and distribution of crop protection, seed and nutritional products, as well as Read More
Yara West Sacramento Ribbon Cutting
Crop InputsYara West Sacramento Is Newest Addition
March 27, 2017
Yara’s West Sacramento Terminal was officially welcomed March 21 as the newest Yara North America facility in the U.S. While continually Read More
UncategorizedPrecision Ag, Iowa Water, and GM Corn Updates
March 24, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj look at the state of precision agriculture, the dismissal of the Des Moines Water Read More
Pam Marrone
Crop InputsMarrone Bio Innovations Enters Biostimulants Market Wit…
March 23, 2017
Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. is expanding beyond biopesticides and crop protection and into the biostimulant market by commercially launching Haven Read More
Nutrients for Life Foundation Teacher
FertilizerNutrients For Life Foundation Celebrates 10 Years Teach…
March 23, 2017
Those in agriculture know fertilizer is a vital ingredient to grow strong, productive crops. In fact, fertilizer is responsible for Read More
ManagementThink You Know Water? Take WinField United’s R…
March 22, 2017
Water is among our most precious resources, and arguably the hardest working, with just one percent available for human use, Read More
Corn Field
LegislationTFI Hopes Court Dismissal Is ‘Final Chapter’…
March 20, 2017
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) released the following statement from President, Chris Jahn on the March 17, 2017, federal court dismissal Read More
Wheat Growers
Industry NewsWheat Growers CEO Dale Locken To Retire
March 20, 2017
CEO Dale Locken has announced that he plans to retire from Wheat Growers. Locken has served almost 15 years as Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Eric SfiligojBayer-Monsanto: Life, LibertyLink, And The Pursuit Of R…
March 20, 2017
As the calendar officially turns to spring, life is in full renewal mode. Flowers are blooming, birds are singing, and Read More
Corn Field
Crop InputsUltra Yield Micronutrients Acquires Kronos Micronutrien…
March 16, 2017
Ultra Yield Micronutrients, Inc. ”Ultra”, an affiliate of Cameron Chemicals, Inc., is pleased to announce that it has acquired the Read More
ManagementSnowstorms, Asset Sales, and Soybeans Prices
March 16, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss the weather, precision ag, crop protection company mergers, and commodity prices in this Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer Invests $8.1 million In Soybean Advancement In Th…
March 16, 2017
Growers in Illinois and across the Midwest now have the added benefit of a state-of-the-art soybean research facility, increasing accessibility Read More
CHS
CropLife 100CHS Acquires Western Co-op Transport Association
March 16, 2017
CHS Inc., North America’s leading farmer-owned cooperative and a global energy, grains and foods company, has purchased Western Co-op Transport Read More
Young corn plants in soil
HerbicidesBest Management Practices To Control PPO-Resistant Weed…
March 14, 2017
Weeds resistant to the class of herbicides called protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) inhibitors are spreading at a faster rate than weed Read More
Photo credit: The United Soybean Board/The Soybean Checkoff.
Eric SfiligojFungicide Resistance On The Horizon
March 13, 2017
For many years now, the agricultural market has struggled to keep ahead of an ever-growing number of herbicide-resistant weeds. According Read More