CSB Proposes New Ideas For Updated NIOSH Agenda

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) submitted a proposal to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) asking it to incorporate research on chemical process safety and chemical release prevention in the new National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

"NORA has been a defining framework for the nation's occupational safety and health research goals in the past decade, and the CSB is pleased to collaborate with NIOSH in their ongoing efforts to revamp this agenda," said CSB Chairman and CEO Carolyn Merritt.

CSB's director of recommendations, Dr. Manuel Gomez, presented the CSB's comments on chemical process safety research to NIOSH at the NORA town hall meeting in Piqua, Ohio on March 3, and said the safety board is providing input on the NIOSH research plans to emphasize "the critical need for additional research on chemical process safety."

Last year, the federal chemical safety agency stressed the importance for increased attention to safety culture , according to Gomez. Referring to the March 2005 BP refinery incident in Texas City, Texas, in which 15 workers were killed, as well as the 2003 nitric explosion in Toledo, Ohio that killed one worker, Gomez pointed out that "there are still many lessons to be learned in areas such as emergency preparedness and response." He also said that NIOSH was the best qualified to "stimulate and fund valuable research on these sorts of accidents and their prevention."

The board, which routinely maintains contact with NIOSH to discuss many chemical incidents, has outlined six broad examples of potential NORA research topics, and the agency plans to coordinate with NIOSH to refine the topics. They include:

  • Evaluating and improving the effectiveness of chemical emergency preparedness programs.
  • Improving information about catastrophic chemical accident potential in material safety data sheets.
  • Determining the safety implications of a large contractor workforce in the chemical industry.
  • Finding reliable ways to evaluate safety culture.
  • Developing methods to reach small- and medium-sized businesses with preventive lessons.
  • Improving the data available to describe and measure accidental chemical releases.

NIOSH's spokesperson Fred Blosser said NIOSH would look into the the CSB's recommendation as they are in the process of defining the agenda for the next 10 years.

"We have worked with the CSB in the past and we certainly welcome their input," he said. "They are a valued partner for us."

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