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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-85-072
Details
Synopsis: AT 3:45 A.M., ON JULY 30, 1983, VINYL CHLORIDE MONOMER (VCM) UNDER PRESSURE ESCAPED FROM A RAILROAD TANK CAR AT THE LOADING FACILITY WITHIN THE FORMOSA PLASTICS CORPORATION (FORMOSA) CHEMICAL MANUFACTURING PLANT AT BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA. THE RELEASED VCM WAS IGNITED BY AN UNDETERMINED SOURCE, AND A LARGE BILLOWING FIRE ENSUED. AN ADJACENT TANK CAR CONTAINING VCM WAS INVOLVED IN THE FIRE BUT DID NOT RUPTURE VIOLENTLY. TWO PERSONS WERE INJURED SERIOUSLY, TWO TANK CARS WERE DESTROYED, THREE TANK CARS WERE DAMAGED MODERATELY, AND THE LOADING FACILITY WAS DAMAGED EXTENSIVE LY. DAMAGE WAS ESTIMATED TO BE $1 MILLION.
Recommendation: THE NTSB RECOMMENDS THAT THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION: DEVELOP A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION TO DEFINE THE EXTENT OF EACH AGENCY'S RESPONSIBILITY FOR SAFETY INSPECTIONS OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS LOADING/UNLOADING FACILITIES AT PETRO CHEMICAL PLANTS TO ELIMINATE GAPS OR OVERLAPS IN RESPONSI BILITY.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Baton Rouge, LA, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA83AZ006
Accident Reports: Vinyl Chloride Monomer Release from a Railroad Tank Car and Fire, Formosa Plastics Corporation Plant
Report #: RAR-85-08
Accident Date: 7/30/1983
Issue Date: 6/17/1985
Date Closed: 9/24/1986
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Closed - Acceptable Alternate Action)
Keyword(s): Tank Car Loading and Unloading, Hazmat

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Date: 9/24/1986
Response: The Safety Board notes and appreciates Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) further comments regarding its inspection priorities and the actions OSHA has taken to increase its inspection presence at chemical plants. The Board hopes that the chemicals emphasis program will filter down to some of the petrochemical unloading facilities. The Board notes also that OSHA's inspection staff will be instructed to be aware of any potential violations of FRA regulations/ While we remain concerned about the nature of the products handled at these petrochemical facilities and the potential effect of these products on the surrounding area, the Board can appreciate the fact that OSHA has limited inspection resources and must focus these resources on workplaces and hazards known to result in employee harm. Consequently, in view of OSHA's efforts to institute a program for the chemicals industry and recognizing OSHA's limited resource capabilities, the Safety Board has reclassified Safety Recommendations R-85-71 and -72 as "Closed-Acceptable Alternate Action." We would appreciate being informed of the results of the experimental inspection program for the chemicals industry.

From: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
To: NTSB
Date: 4/23/1986
Response: BASED ON THE INVESTIGATION OF THIS INCIDENT, NTSB DIRECTED ACTIVITIES. THIS IS NOT A NEW POLICY, BUT A REAFFIRMATION TWO RECOMMENDATIONS TO OSHA. FIRST, OSHA WAS ASKED TO OF OSHA'S EXISTING REQUIREMENTS THAT ITS FIELD STAFF MAIN REVIEW AND REVISE ITS EXISTING SYSTEM OF SETTING PRIORITIES TAIN CLOSE CONTACT WITH OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES WITH WHICH FOR GENERAL SCHEDULE INSPECTIONS AND TO INSTITUTE A NEW PRO OSHA SHARES AUTHORITY FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH. GRAM OF REGULAR INSPECTIONS AT PETROCHEMICAL PLANT LOADING FACILITIES. SECOND, NTSB RECOMMENDED THAT OSHA ENTER INTO A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH THE FRA TO ENSURE THAT FRE QUENT REGULAR INSPECTIONS ARE CONDUCTED BY BOTH AGENCIES AND THAT THERE ARE NO GAPS IN THESE INSPECTIONS. IN OUR PRE VIOUS CORRESPONDENCE WITH YOU ON THIS SUBJECT, OUR INTENTION WAS TO CONVEY INFORMATION ABOUT HOW OSHA'S INSPECTION PRIORITIES ARE SET AND TO DESCRIBE ACTIONS WE HAVE TAKEN TO INCREASE OUR INSPECTION PRESENCE AT CHEMICAL PLANTS. WE ALSO WISHED TO ASSURE YOU THAT OSHA'S SHARED JURISDICTION WITH FRA DOES NOT RESULT IN GAPS IN COVERAGE. ALTHOUGH OSHA DID NOT AGREE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR EXACT RECOMMENDATIONS, THE PURPOSE OF OUR PREVIOUS LETTER WAS TO SUGGEST THAT SOME OF THE STEPS OSHA HAS TAKEN OR PLANS TO TAKE MIGHT SERVE AS ALTERNATIVE MEANS TO ACHIEVE THE GOAL OF REDUCING ACCIDENTS AT PETROCHEMICAL PLANTS. IT WAS DISAPPOINTING THEREFORE TO LEARN THAT, BASED ON OUR EARLIER RESPONSES, NTSB HAS PLACED ITS RECOMMENDATIONS IN A "CLOSED--UNACCEPTABLE ACTION" STATUS. I WISH TO CORRECT AN APPARENT MISUNDERSTANDING THAT OSHA QUESTIONS THE MERITS OF YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS. OSHA FIRMLY SHARES YOUR OPINION THAT REGULAR FEDERAL INSPECTIONS OF PETROCHEMICAL PLANT LOADING FACILITIES WOULD REDUCE THE POTENTIAL FOR CATASTROPHIC ACCIDENTS. WE ALSO CONCUR WITH YOUR OPINION THAT AN OSHA-FRA AGREEMENT TO COORDINATE THESE INSPECTIONS WOULD HELP TO ENSURE THAT HAZARDOUS WORKING CONDITIONS ARE NOT OVERLOOKED. NOTWITHSTANDING, ANY ACTION OSHA AGREES TO TAKE IN RESPONSE TO THE NTSB RECOMMENDATIONS MUST BE TEMPERED BY THE FACT THAT OSHA HAS LIMITED INSPEC TION RESOURCES TO ADDRESS SERIOUS HAZARDS IN OTHER INDUS TRIES. OSHA HAS A CADRE OF 1,200 COMPLIANCE OFFICERS TO INSPECT THE APPROXIMATELY 3 MILLION FIRMS UNDER THE AGENCY'S WORKPLACE VISITS MUST BE DIRECTED TO THOSE INDUSTRIES AND ESTABLISHMENTS WHERE THE GREATEST NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES ARE EXPOSED TO THE MOST SERIOUS HAZARDS. IMPROVEMENTS IN OSHA'S INSPECTION PROCEDURES HAVE ALLOWED US TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF INSPECTIONS WE PERFORM TO MORE THAN 71,000 INSPECTIONS PER YEAR. EVEN SO, THESE VISITS ARE ONLY SPOT CHECKS AND CANNOT BE CONSIDERED AS PART OF AN EFFORT TO VISIT EACH OF THE ESTABLISHMENTS UNDER OUR COVERAGE. APPROXIMATELY 52,000 OF OSHA'S INSPECTIONS ARE AGENCY-PROGRAMMED OR GENERAL SCHEDULE INSPECTIONS. THESE VISITS ARE CONCENTRATED IN HIGH-HAZARD INDUSTRIES, PRIMARILY IN THE CONSTRUCTION AND MANUFACTURING SECTORS. OUR GOAL IS TO TARGET THESE DISCRE TIONARY VISITS SO THAT OUR AGENCY'S COMPLIANCE OFFICERS SPEND THEIR TIME INSPECTING WORKPLACES WHERE THEIR PRESENCE IS CRUCIAL TO THE WELL-BEING OF EMPLOYEES. TO COMPLEMENT ITS REGULAR INSPECTION-TARGETING SYSTEM OSHA HAS IMPLEMENTED SPECIAL EMPHASIS PROGRAMS FOR INSPECTIONS AT HAZARDOUS WORK PLACES THAT MIGHT NOT OTHERWISE BE VISITED OR WHERE SPECIAL ATTENTION IS NEEDED. THE CHEMICALS EMPHASIS PROGRAM DESCRIBED IN OUR PREVIOUS CORRESPONDENCE IS ONE OF THESE. OSHA ALSO CONDUCTS SPECIAL EMPHASIS PROGRAMS FOR EMPLOYEE SAFETY AND HEALTH AT HAZARDUS WASTE SITES, INCLUDING THOSE DESIGNATED FOR CLEANUP UNDER THE SUPERFUND LAW, AND FOR TRENCHING AND EXCAVATION SITES WHERE A LARGE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES ARE KILLED EACH YEAR. OSHA ALSO HAS BEGUN A SPECIAL PROGRAM FOR FIREWORKS MANUFACTURING FACILITIES, SUCH AS THE ONE IN GORE, OKLAHOMA, WHERE AN EXPLOSION IN JUNE 1985 RESULTED IN THE DEATH OF 21 EMPLOYEES. ALTHOUGH OUR AGENCY CONTINUALLY REFINES ITS PROGRAMS TO IMPROVE EFFI CIENCY AND EFFECTIVENESS, THE CURRENT LEVEL OF INSPECTION ACTIVITY HAS CLEARLY STRETCHED OSHA'S RESOURCES TO THEIR LIMIT. ANY DECISION TO REDIRECT THE AGENCY'S INSPECTION FOCUS TO NEW AREAS WOULD NECESSARILY RESULT IN LESS ATTEN TION ELSEWHERE. THUS, IN ORDER FOR OSHA TO IMPLEMENT A PRO GRAM OF REGULAR INSPECTIONS AT PETROCHEMICAL PLANT UNLOAD ING FACILITIES, THE BENEFITS OF SUCH A PROGRAM WOULD HAVE TO CLEARLY OUTWEIGH THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF CONDUCTING FEWER INSPECTIONS OF OTHER HAZARDOUS WORKPLACES. IN ITS INITIAL LETTER TO OSHA ON THIS SUBJECT, THE NTSB NOTED THAT LARGE-SCALE ACCIDENTS AT PETROCHEMICAL PLANTS, WHILE POTEN TIALLY CATASTROPHIC, MAY OCCUR INFREQUENTLY. THIS FACT PRESENTS OSHA WITH A TROUBLING DILEMMA. OSHA MAY EITHER CONTINUE TO FOCUS ITS ATTENTION AND RESOURCES ON WORKPLACES AND HAZARDS WHICH ARE KNOWN TO RESULT IN EMPLOYEE HARM OR TO IGNORE THESE KNOWN CONDITIONS AND DIRECT ITS ATTENTION TO POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WHICH COULD BE DEVASTATING BUT WHICH MAY OCCUR ONLY INFREQUENTLY. IT IS OSHA'S BELIEF THAT ITS RECENTLY INSTITUTED PROGRAM FOR THE CHEMICALS INDUSTRY WILL RESULT IN INCREASED SAFETY AND HEALTH AWARENESS AMONG EMPLOYERS IN THIS SECTOR. ALTHOUGH THE PROGRAM DOES NOT SINGLE OUT THE PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRY FOR SPECIAL ATTENTION, THE EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM WILL BE CONDUCTED IN AREAS OF THE COUNTRY WITH THE GREATEST CONCENTRATION OF PETROCHEMICAL PLANTS. BASED ON THE OUTCOME OF THIS EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAM, OSHA MAY DECIDE THAT AN EMPHASIS PROGRAM FOR PETROCHEMICAL LOADING FACILITIES WOULD BE ADVISABLE. AT THIS TIME, HOWEVER, WE DO NOT HAVE SUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO WARRANT THE EXACT PROGRAM NTSB HAS RECOMMENDED. TO ENSURE THAT THE FRA IS APPRISED OF THE RESULTS OF THE INSPECTIONS CONDUCTED AT CHEMICAL PLANTS, I WILL INSTRUCT OSHA'S INSPECTION STAFF TO BE AWARE OF ANY POTENTIAL VIOLATIONS OF FRA REGULATIONS THEY MAY COME ACROSS AS PART OF OSHA'S INVESTIGATIONS AT LOADING AREAS. I WILL ALSO URGE THE ADMINISTRATOR OF FRA TO HAVE THAT AGENCY'S INVESTIGATORS INFORM OSHA

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Date: 3/25/1986
Response: The Board is disappointed that OSHA has rejected the intent of this recommendation, particularly in view of OSHA's indication in regard to Safety Recommendation R-85-71 that it does not plan to conduct more frequent and regular inspections of petrochemical facilities. The Board remains concerned about the potential for catastrophic accidents in an area where there is a dense concentration of petrochemical plants, as is the area where the Formosa plant is located, and believes that effective Federal safety oversight is critical. However, since it appears that further dialogue on this topic at this time will not convince OSHA that the Board's position has merit, Safety Recommendation R-85-72 has been placed in a "Closed-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
To: NTSB
Date: 2/5/1986
Response: OSHA LTR: AS TO RECOMMENDATION R-85-72, PERTAINING TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN THE FRA AND OSHA, WE CLEARLY UNDERSTAND THAT THE INTENT OF YOUR RECOMMENDATION IS TO INCREASE THE FREQUENCY OF FEDERAL INSPECTIONS AT HAZARDOUS MATERIAL LOADING AND UNLOADING FACILITIES. HOWEVER, AS STATED IN OUR LETTER OF AUGUST 31, 1985, OSHA AND FRA AGREE THAT THE AGENCIES' AREAS OF STATU TORY AND REGULATORY AUTHORITY ARE ADEQUATELY DEFINED. WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE ANY "GAPS" BETWEEN THE AGENCIES IN EXERCISING THIS AUTHORITY NOR, IN OUR VIEW, THAT ANY OSHA-FRA AGREEMENT WOULD INCREASE THE FREQUENCY OR REGU LARITY OF INSPECTIONS BY EITHER AGENCY. FEDERAL OSHA'S "ROUTINE" OR PROGRAMMED INSPECTIONS OF PETROCHEMICAL FACI LITIES, AS WELL AS ALL OTHER INDUSTRIES IN THE 2.8 MILLION FIRMS IT COVERS, ARE BASED ON AN ESTABLISHED TARGETING SYSTEM DESIGNED TO MAKE THE MOST EFFICIENT USE OF OUR RESOURCES AND EMPHASIZE THE MOST HAZARDOUS WORKSITES. IF AN INDUSTRY'S LOST WORKDAY INJURY RATE IS EQUAL TO OR ABOVE THE NATIONAL AVERAGE FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR, THE ESTABLISHMENT WITHIN THAT INDUSTRY ARE SUBJECT TO PROGRAMMED SAFETY IN SPECTIONS. ANNUAL ADJUSTMENTS ARE MADE IN TARGETING TO REFLECT CURRENT LOST WORKDAY INJURY RATES. ADDITIONAL INSPECTIONS ARE MADE AT PETROCHEMICAL FACILITIES IF OSHA RECEIVES EMPLOYEE COMPLAINTS OR REFERRALS FROM OTHER AGENCIES, INCLUDING ANY WHICH WE MAY RECEIVE FROM THE FRA. IN CONCLUSION, WE APPRECIATE YOUR CONCERN WITH THE SAFETY AND HEALTH OF WORKERS AT PETROCHEMICAL LOADING/UNLOADING FACILITIES. HOWEVER, WE FEEL THAT OSHA ADEQUATELY COVERS THE FACILITIES IN ITS OVERALL INSPECTION SYSTEM.

From: NTSB
To: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Date: 1/14/1986
Response: Based on your response, the Safety Board is concerned that OSHA might have misinterpreted the intent of the recommendation. While the Board notes that OSHA and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have met and determined that the agencies' areas of statutory and regulatory authority are adequately defined, the Board points out that the intent of the recommendation is to eliminate any gaps in the exercise of responsibility to inspect hazardous materials loading/unloading facilities. At the time of the accident, the Formosa plant had not been inspected by either OSHA or the FRA since 1977. The Board believes that hazardous materials loading/unloading facilities shouls be inspected on a regular and more frequent basis and that a working agreement between OSHA and the FRA, similar to that which exists between OSHA and the Coast Guard, would assure that inspections are conducted regularly and would eliminate gaps in conducting inspections. Pending OSHA's reconsideration of the recommendation, R-85-72 will be held in an "Open-Unacceptable Action" status.

From: United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
To: NTSB
Date: 8/21/1985
Response: WITH REGARD TO YOUR SECOND RECOMMENDATION, OSHA HAS MET WITH THE STAFF OF THE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION (FRA) TO DISCUSS THIS ISSUE. WE HAVE JOINTLY DETERMINED, BASED ON PAST EXPERIENCE AND A CLOSE REVIEW OF THE AGENCIES' AREAS OF STATUTORY AND REGULATORY AUTHORITY, THAT THESE AREAS ARE ADEQUATELY DEFINED AND THAT A FORMAL MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING IS NOT NEEDED. AS WE HAVE IN THE PAST, OSHA WILL CONTINUE TO COOPERATE CLOSELY WITH FRA ON SAFETY MATTERS AND INVESTIGATIONS OF MUTUAL CONCERN, AND TO CONSULT WITH FRA WHERE POSSIBLE JURISDICTIONAL QUESTIONS ARE DISCERNED.