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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other federal agencies will create new protocols to notify local governments and emergency services when a company in their area is hit with a serious citation.
OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are working on the new protocols for communicating and training with local governments and first responders, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who lobbied for the protocols in the wake of a fatal chemical explosion and fire at a New Windsor, New York, cosmetic factory.
The chemical facility security and safety working group will coordinate strategies, activities, policies and communication across governmental entities and work to improve OSHA’s coordination and communication systems to local municipalities and their respective stakeholders, particularly when serious citations are issued for workplace safety violations.
In April, Verla International Ltd. was issued a serious citation with an initial penalty of $12,675 that was later reduced to $8,239 after informal settlement discussions with OSHA officials for workplace safety violations involving flammable and combustible liquids. In 2016, the company was issued six serious and three other-than-serious citations carrying proposed penalties totaling $63,148 that were reduced to $41,046 after informal settlement talks.
The November explosion at the company’s facility killed one employee and injured dozens of other people, according to local officials. A Verla spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
“In January, while in New Windsor, I said our first responders should never be put in a situation where they walk blindly into a hazardous scene, without proper notification by the federal government that a company has been cited for major health and safety violations, specifically concerning flammable and combustible liquids,” Mr. Schumer said in statement. “These new protocols will provide technical expertise and tighter coordination with federal and regional first responder operations to try to make sure the lack of communication and awareness of pre-existing issues faced by first responders back in November is a thing of the past.”
In December 2016, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health recommended that OSHA expeditiously pursue a formal rule-making for an emergency responder preparedness program standard – an effort that gained new momentum after the April 2013 death of 12 emergency responders in an ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, but has stalled under the Trump administration.
Workplace safety experts are keeping an eye out for a potential rise in post-retirement injuries due to the number of retired workers taking on part-time jobs and a continued increase in the number of older employees in the U.S. workforce.