Saturday, April 15, 2017

CSB is fighting for its life - fight with it!

The new American president have apparently decide in his suggested budget to remove anything, which he don't understand, and use the money on the military - at least that is how I read what has been reported in the media (even though the president want us to believe, that we can't trust the media). One of the things the president don't understand is the role the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) plays in saving Americans by investigating a few of the many accidents, that each year just happens at US chemical and refining facilities.

The CSB has an annual budget of just US$ 11,000,000 which help protect American workers.By comparison the budget for protecting the American people is US$ 580,300,000,000 - or more than US$ 66,000,000 each hour of the year or US$ 11,000,000 every 10 minutes. That is six times the CSB budget. Both the US CSB and tthe US Military help protect Americans, and that is the message, which the US president needs to understand.

I am not always pleased with the focus of the investigation reports and case studies issued by the CSB. Those viewpoints were presented at the 2013 International Symposium on Loss Prevention and Safety Prevention in Florence, Italy in a paper titled "How Could CSB Investigation Reports Be Improved?" (copy can be requested by email to niels.jensen@safepark.dk). However, although there may be things to improve at the CSB is contribute improved process safety for workers and neighbors of chemical facilities. One example of this the CSB investigation of the explosion on August 28th, 2008 at Bayer Crop Sciences in Institute West Virginia. This facility used to be owned by Union Carbide, but was after the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India involving the release of highly toxic methyl isocyanate acquired by Dow Chemical in 2001. Later the facility in Institute was acquired by Bayer, and at the time of the incident it was part of Bayer's Crop Sciences Division.

However, even in 2008 methyl isocyanate (MIC) was still used at facility in Insittute, and a tank with MIC barely escaped damage in the 2008 explosion. However, today MIC is no longer used at the Institute facility. This in my view can be credited to the CSB investigation report, which was highly critical of the continued use of MIC at the Institute facility. Other companies, such as DuPont, after 1984 moved quickly to eliminate any storage of the intermediate MIC at their facilities worldwide. Dow Chemical and Bayer was slower to do this, but has caught up. Today, thanks in part to the CSB investigation of the 2008 explosion it is safer to live in Institute, West Virginia than it has been for many years.

Institute is in the Khanawha Valley, which in the late eighties and early nineties became very known in international safety community for a local group of volunteers, which forced companies in the area to tell their neighbors - and hence the world about the toxic chemicals at their facilities and the worst case events, which they could cause.  The result was the creation of Local Emergency Planning  Committees, and also in Sarnia's Chemical Valley a similar initiative to have companies tell the public about the impact on the community of possible worst case accidents, and the efforts of industry to avoid such events.

The idea that safety pays is not new. Some years ago the European Process Safety Centre had a video on this subject created, which you can view and order here (watching the video online requires Flash 8, so it won't work in Chrome). I am happy that the CSB now - a bit late - also beet the same drum. Read about that here in CSB's own words. Help save the CSB by sharing messages such as this one in the process safety community - and if you are American maybe also share these messages with your representatives in Congress.

PS: Thanks in part to the European Union in Europe we a different approach to process safety, than the US. Authorities here don't prescribe solutions, just tell companies, that they are not allowed to kill people or pollute the environment if they want to keep their licence to operate.