Chemical industry experience sets example for improving health, safety and security
More than 30 years ago, on the night of December 2, 1984, at least 30 tons of a highly toxic gas called methyl isocyanate leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Thousands died, were injured or experienced residual health consequences. It was one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
Chuck Magro, Nutrien President and Chief Executive Officer, remembers studying the Bhopal incident extensively while earning his degree in chemical engineering. When the North American fertilizer industry experienced its own disaster in West, Texas, in 2013, Magro was in his fourth year with Agrium, following a successful career with NOVA Chemicals.
In Bhopal, lives were lost, and an entire city was shaken. The Texas incident also caused loss of life and dramatically altered the community. When Magro heard about the disaster in West, Texas, he felt a sense of déjà vu. It awakened in him a commitment to and passion for preventing future incidents.
|“If there’s an incident at a fertilizer facility. . . the entire industry gets a black eye.” – Chuck Magro, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nutrien|
“If you’ve ever been part of something that negatively impacts people’s lives, it takes something away from you, and it’s not a good feeling,” says Magro. “We have to learn from other industries, and we have to prevent these things from happening.”
Responsible Care® works to prevent disaster
After the Bhopal incident, the chemical manufacturing industry vowed to prevent future incidents and banded together to improve its safety performance, forming Responsible Care®. For the past 30 years, Responsible Care has helped American Chemistry Council (ACC) member companies significantly enhance their performance, as well as improve the health and safety of their employees, the communities in which they operate and the environment. Magro points to Responsible Care as a model he believes the agricultural inputs industry should follow.
The initiative’s results are noteworthy. Based on 2017 performance reports, Responsible Care companies have an employee safety record 5 times better than the U.S. manufacturing sector, and almost 3 times better than the chemistry industry overall. The companies voluntarily track process safety incidents and, since 1995, have reduced occurrence by 56 percent. In addition, recordable injury and illness incidence rates have been cut by 79 percent since 1990, working toward an overall industry goal of no accidents, injuries or harm to human health. *
“Today, Responsible Care is the bellwether of safety for the chemical industry. Every chemical company ― big, small, distribution, production ― is a member. They all work together, investing to do what’s right for their employees and the communities where they live and work,” Magro says. “Responsible Care is for the industry, by the industry.”
Industry participation, collaboration is key for success
Having learned from the chemical industry’s example, Magro believes collaboration and unified participation in ResponsibleAg provides several benefits to the fertilizer industry. First and foremost is improved safety ― protecting people and communities. Second is prevention of incidents that can give the entire industry a black eye.
“If there’s an incident at a fertilizer facility, it doesn’t matter if your company is involved or not. It doesn’t matter if you do or don’t handle the product in question,” Magro explains. “These situations create unnecessary public attention. The entire industry gets a black eye, and that’s not good for anyone.” The outcome can be more legislation, increased regulation and added costs or complexity for agricultural businesses.
“Often, the groups proposing more regulation don’t know our business like we do. So, it’s important that members of the fertilizer industry step up and work together through ResponsibleAg. Doing so demonstrates that we know what’s right. We know how to keep our employees, neighbors, customers and communities safe, and we’re going to take responsibility and accountability for that.”
Nutrien is one of many companies that is “all in” with ResponsibleAg, having supported the initiative since it launched in 2013. Nutrien has adopted the program as a core part of its safety program and considers participation in the ResponsibleAg Certification Program an important investment the company and its retail facilities are making in employees and communities.
The hands-on learning provided through the ResponsibleAg program is another unique aspect of ResponsibleAg that Magro believes makes the program practical and easy to implement across the fertilizer industry.
For more information or to join, visit www.ResponsibleAg.org or call 270-683-6777.
® Registered service mark of the American Chemistry Council, Inc.
*American Chemistry Council.