Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

USW testifies on work place chemical security

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A United Steelworkers (USW) expert on workplace chemical security who testified on Thursday before a U.S. House subcommittee on legislation to extend the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) said that those standards need to be improved.

Testifying before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, James Frederick, assistant director for USW Health, Safety and Environment, said that “Workers are the best source to identify vulnerable hazards and often have much more hands-on worksite experience to recommend solutions.

”To be fully effective, worker participation must be supported by strong and effective whistleblower protection,” Frederick added.

USW President Leo Gerard supported Frederick’s testimony, which criticized H.R. 908 to maintain CFATS without improvements. “It would jeopardize the hundreds of thousands of USW members employed at chemical-related facilities and residents who live in surrounding communities,” Gerard said. “We support the more comprehensive bills introduced by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) to address the preventable hazards these plants pose.”

Those bills: the Secure Chemical Facilities Act and the Secure Water Facilities Act.

Weaknesses in the current CFATS rule which an extension won’t address include the following, Frederick testified: the standard prohibits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from requiring any specific security measure; it fails to develop the use of smart security to eliminate risks; and it explicitly exempts thousands of chemical and port facilities including 2,400 water treatment facilities and more than 400 facilities on navigable waters such as oil refineries.

CFATS also fails to address risk shifting, Frederick testified, when companies shift chemical hazards to unguarded locations like rail sidings. “Frederick used an example of a uranium processing plant run by Honeywell Corp. in Metropolis, Ill., where the community has been put at risk with railcars of hydrofluoric acid being stored at off-site property,” the USW said. The union represents 230 workers involved in a labor dispute at that plant.

The USW industrial safety representative further testified that any legislation on chemical security should achieve the following:

•Require facilities that pose the greatest risk to assess safer chemical processes and to conditionally require the use of safer chemical processes, where feasible and commercially available.

•Provide resources to assist facilities to use safer and more secure processes.

•Require worker involvement in the development of security plans, provide protections for whistleblowers, and limit background check abuses.

•Preserve state authority to establish stronger security standards.

Frederick’s testimony is available at: www.usw.org

 

Posted 4/4/2011

 

 

 

 

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