New regulations seek safer chemical plants
security of chemical plants, requiring that safer technology
becomes a standard practice within the sector.
The House Committee on Homeland Security has approved a draft legislation that extends and modifies federal authority to regulate the security of US chemical plants, including many fine chemical and ingredients players serving the personal care sector. The draft legislation is due to go forward for approval by the House of Representatives, a procedure that should be completed within the next two months. The draft regulation stipulates that 'inherently safer technology (IST)' will have to be incorporated into chemical plants, requiring manufacturers to make significant investments to update equipment and processes where necessary. New proposal builds on interim regulation The regulation will also make permanent a slightly modified version of the interim chemical security regulation, which was issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in April 2007. However, the regulation proposal has also come under criticsm from the Joint Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Committee, which said that, while it agreed with the regulation framework of the proposal, it places too much authority in the hands of the DHS. "This is unacceptable and will do little if anything to improve site security or deter terrorist attacks," the organization said. The DHS says that its rules require that chemical plant operators housing particular quantities of specific chemicals to complete preliminary screening assessments to determine the facilities' level of risk. This means that those facilities deigned to be high risk will have to prepare reports outlining the areas where there are concerns and submit them alongside detailed site plans and an assessment of how to reduce risks to the DHS committee. IST aims to reduce perceived risks In turn the risk assessment must include a clear plan on how to reduce the perceived risks according to IST principles. IST has been forged specifically for the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and related industries and, according to the American Chemical Society (ACS) it is 'based on the belief that a hazard can be moderated or eliminated, thereby reducing risk and possibly removing the risk altogether'. Although changes in technologies are touted as one of the main means of reducing risk, the ACS also stresses that IST should encourage a holistic approach that takes on board all aspects of the production and logistics processes.