A federal working group that includes the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has brought forth measures to improve chemical plant safety and security, Chemicals Technology reports.

The group's proposals were submitted to President Barack Obama. In August 2013 he issued an executive order — Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security — to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities and to reduce the risk hazardous chemicals pose to facility workers and operators. The order came after the tragic explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, in April 2013, which left 15 people dead and several hundred others injured.

The working group pointed out that while its report cites many activities undertaken to improve chemical facility safety and security, it also notes that much more must be done to successfully implement the consolidated action plan.

However, according to the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, if the Obama Administration truly wants to protect workers and communities, President Obama needs to uphold prevention requirements which include safer chemicals and processes. The coalition said the measures contained in the working group's report were not strong enough and that the people of West, Texas, deserved better.

The short- and long-term priority actions the report of the working group envisions focus on five specific areas. They include strengthening community planning and preparedness, improving federal operational coordination, enhancing data management, revamping policies and regulation and incorporating stakeholder feedback and best practices.

The administration should conclude the implementation of the new prevention-based regulations within the next 18 months, the taskforce stated.