The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is partnering with the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute to reach more than 7,000 agricultural retailers, distributers, producers and other facilities in the fertilizer industry to remind employers of the importance of safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate.
This effort follows the devastating April 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, which killed 15 including 12 emergency response personnel. OSHA cited the owners of the West Fertilizer Company with 24 serious safety violations for exposing workers to fire/explosion hazards of ammonium nitrate and chemical burn and inhalation hazards from anhydrous ammonia storage.
The trade associations will distribute a letter from Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels to fertilizer industry employers throughout the country. In the letter, Dr. Michaels says, “The tragedy in West, Texas, and other incidents underscore the need for employers who store and handle hazardous substances like ammonium nitrate to ensure the safety of those materials – not just for workers at the facility but for the lives and safety of emergency responders and nearby residents. I am calling on you today to take the necessary steps to prevent tragic ammonium nitrate incidents.”
In the letter, OSHA provides employers with legal requirements and best practice recommendations for safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate. Employers can view the letter at http://www.osha.gov/dep/fertilizer_industry/letter_fertilizer_industry.html.
Following the tragedy that struck West, Texas, in April 2013, the President issued Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, on August 1, 2013, to improve chemical facility safety and security in coordination with owners and operators. The EO directs the Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation to identify ways to improve operational coordination with state and local partners, enhance federal agency coordination and information sharing, modernize policies, regulations and standards to enhance safety and security in chemical facilities and work with stakeholders to identify best practices to reduce safety and security risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/index.html.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.