EPA: Criminal Acts Causing Chemical Accidents

Companies are paying increased attention to work-site security, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Safety managers responsible for the handling of hazardous chemicals spend most of their time ensuring that the design and day-to-day operation of their facilities protect workers and the community from chemical accidents.

Because of today's increasing concern about terrorism, vandalism and sabotage, however, companies are also paying increased attention to the physical security of their work sites, according to a new "chemical safety alert" put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The alert cites several recent examples where criminal activity has caused millions of dollars of damages and threatened the health and safety of workers and the environment. The EPA report, intended as a public service, also provides plant managers with information to help them improve security and avoid the risks posed by criminals.

"Every few weeks," according to the alert, "the EPA receives reports that thieves, looking for ammonia to use to make illegal drugs, have broken into fertilizer dealers, refrigerated warehouses or ice manufacturing facilities, frequently leaving valves open."

In some cases, the thieves were overcome by the ammonia and needed to be rescued. In other cases, the community has been evacuated, the released ammonia caused injuries to the general public and to enforcement personnel.

The report lists ways to improve plant security, such as facility design, procedures and policies. In addition, it provides a list of 10 Web sites where facility managers can go for further information.

EPA's Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO) is working to post the document in the near future on its Web site at www.epa.gov/ceppo.

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