In the wake of
several high-profile industrial explosions, government bodies are showing renewed
interest in regulating reactive chemicals. These
are chemicals that can become unstable in certain circumstances, such as through mixture or storage with incompatible substances, or exposure to excessive heat or pressure. This column briefly summarizes what to expect in the year ahead.
EPA and OSHA mandate
accident prevention programs, and hold the owner or operator of a stationary
source responsible for complying with specific
facility regulations intended to prevent accidents. EPA has published regulations for chemical accident prevention at facilities using extremely hazardous substances and has promulgated a Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule. OSHAs Process Safety Management (PSM) standard covers reactive chemicals. It applies to processes containing more than a threshold quantity of any of 137 listed chemicals, and subjects a facility to varying regulations depending upon the type of operation, the chemicals managed on site and the amount of chemicals held in inventory. Under the Clinton Administration, OSHA prepared a significant proposed rule intended to regulate reactive chemicals more rigorously. The rule was not published,
however, before President Bush was inaugurated in 2001.