The Volatile Debate Over Regulation of Reactive Chemicals

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Courtesy of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

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The regulation of chemicals believed to be “reactive” has been hotly debated for many years. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “(c)hemical reactivity presents serious, sometimes catastrophic hazards to workers when the hazard is not thoroughly understood and controlled.” The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) reports that there were 167 serious reactive chemical accidents over a two-decade period and that 108 people were killed in 48 of these incidents. Despite these numbers, many believe legislative or regulatory action is unlikely.

OSHA regulates highly hazardous chemicals under its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. This is intended to protect workers from hazards associated with catastrophic releases of "toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals" and applies to processes with more than a threshold quantity of any of 137 listed chemicals.

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