For months, members of Congress and Dr. Jerry Poje of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) have warned that many small companies in the chemical business may not be prepared for 2000. A recently completed study appears to have confirmed their worst Y2K fears.
The study was prepared by the Texas Engineering Station's Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center, headquartered at Texas A&M University. Researchers conducted a scientific survey of firms with 200 or fewer employees in New Jersey, Kansas, California and Texas. Among its findings:
- 86.5 percent of firms surveyed are not prepared for Y2K;
- 85.6 percent have not coordinated emergency plans with local or community officials;
- 79 percent said they had never before been surveyed about Y2K preparedness; and
- 4.1 percent said Y2K presents "potential for a catastrophic event."
"While some have seen bad news in that survey, I have seen good news," said Joe Mayhew of the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA).
Mayhew pointed out that the bulk of those surveyed were not CMA members. The survey found that a majority of its respondents did not belong to any trade associations, which have been the primary gatherers of private-sector Y2K information. CMA checked with those who did the Texas A&M survey and "they said the CMA members were in good shape," Mayhew said.
Some other good news in the survey, he said, is that 30 percent to 40 percent of respondents indicated they do not have systems subject to Y2K failure. As for the rest, they said they have plans in place to get ready by the end of the year.
The National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD), a trade association that represents more small- and medium-sized businesses than CMA, has worked with Poje to educate, prepare and train its members, said Goeff O'Hara, managing director of NACD's government and public affairs.
O'Hara referred people who are concerned about the issue to CSB's Web site, www.chemsafety.gov, where there is a brochure on how to prepare and other information about Y2K readiness.