chemical industry needs guidance in choosing alternative processing methods to
reduce or eliminate hazards, a national panel said in a report released Friday,
according to Business Week.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require chemical
companies to follow certain procedures to ensure manufacturing processes are
safe. But the report by the National Research Council said the industry lacks
common practice protocols and understanding to identify safer processes.
recommends that the U.S. Chemical Safety Board or other entity develop a plan
to help chemical plant managers choose alternative processes to reduce or
method, known as an "inherently safer process" assessment, aims to
minimize or eliminate a hazard. But the assessment does not always provide
clear guidance. The report said switching to a non-flammable solvent in a
process would remove a fire hazard. But if the solvent is toxic, a new hazard
inherently safer process strategies would reduce the number of vulnerable areas
around a company''s facilities, which would decrease the scope of emergency
preparedness programs. But it potentially could narrow the focus too much and
overlook certain outcomes, the report said.
ordered the study following a 2008 explosion at BayerCropscience''s plant in
Institute that killed two workers. The explosion occurred near a storage tank
containing methyl isocyanate, a highly toxic chemical also known as MIC. The
tank was not damaged and the chemical wasn''t released.
took measures to reduce risks associated with MIC manufacturing and storage at
the Institute plant. But the company did not incorporate all possible methods
to control hazards, the report said.