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USW safety expert testifies at Senate committee hearing on chemical facilities

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A United Steelworkers (USW) health and safety expert testified before a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday in support of President Obama’s executive order to improve chemical facility safety and security.

James Frederick, USW assistant director of the union’s health, safety and environment department, made his remarks to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, at a hearing entitled “Preventing Potential Chemical Threats and Improving Safety: Oversight of the President’s Executive Order on Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.”

Specifically, Obama’s order establishes a working group co-chaired by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with the idea of improving operational coordination among state and local partners.

Frederick’s testimony was based on the union’s experience in handling chemical hazards and responding to chemical incidents and near misses, the USW said in a statement released on Thursday.

“Our members’ experiences have demonstrated the importance of federal agency coordination and information sharing,” Frederick said. “At one facility where the local union identified health and safety hazards, three agencies were approached and each one passed responsibility to the next. It took much time and effort for an adequate response, which left the community at risk far longer than was necessary if the agencies had collaborated.”

“The President’s executive order is extremely important for our members because they suffer the consequences when employers and regulations do not do enough to prevent catastrophic releases and explosions,” said USW International Vice President At Large Carol Landry, who heads the union’s chemical sector. “It is important that the working group do all it can to reach its goals and implement the executive order.”

“The recent chemical spill in Charleston, W.Va., and the massive chemical explosion in West, Texas, illustrate how important it is for the Working Group to change the handling of chemical hazards and response to chemical accidents,” Landry added. “These accidents needlessly cost lives, injure people, and damage property. They all can be avoided.”

 

 

Posted 3/10/2014