Eight international labor unions and the AFL-CIO are calling for stronger standards to protect workers and communities from runaway chemical reactions at manufacturing and other industrial facilities.

The unions are petitioning OSHA to improve "process safety management." This standard requires employers to follow certain safe practices involving chemicals. Currently, no OSHA standard specifically addresses reactive chemical incidents.

Both OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board have acknowledged that major deficiencies in current standards contribute to unnecessary deaths, injuries and pollution. The Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal oversight agency, has recommended that OSHA and EPA take specific steps to improve regulations that prevent uncontrolled chemical reactions.

A Chemical Safety Board report identified 167 reactive chemical incidents between 1980 and 2001 that resulted in 108 deaths. Incidents occurred at both small facilities and major corporations such as BP-Amoco and Shell Oil.