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Lawmakers call on OSHA to update ammonium nitrate standard

ammonium nitrate

Three U.S. lawmakers are calling on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to update its ammonium nitrate standard in the wake of the deadly Beirut explosion earlier this month.

Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va.; Alma Adams, D-N.C.; and Joe Courtney, D-Conn. submitted a letter Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, noting that the current ammonium nitrate standard is nearly 50 years old and the Process Safety Management Standard, which protects workers from chemical plant catastrophes, is nearly 30 years old.

In 2013, President Barack Obama signed an executive order calling for an update of the standards after an ammonium nitrate explosion that year at a plant in West, Texas, killed 15 people, including 12 emergency responders. Ammonium nitrate is a highly reactive chemical used primarily for fertilizer.

The lawmakers noted that the Government Accountability Board in 2014 and the Chemical Safety Board in 2016 recommended that OSHA update the standards.

“In order to prevent any future tragedies like the explosions in West, Texas, or Beirut, Lebanon, we call on you to put the Process Safety Management Standard back on the active regulatory agenda and invest resources to ensure its timely issuance in order to protect plant workers, emergency responders and the surrounding communities from the tragic consequences of ammonium nitrate explosions,” they wrote.

The letter also asked OSHA to either cover ammonium nitrate in its PSM standard or to update the agency’s free-standing ammonium nitrate standard. Ammonium nitrate was not covered by the PSM standard when it was issued in 1992.