Two House Democrats have written acting OSHA chief Jordan Barab urging him to expand the agency’s process safety management standards.

Representatives George Miller (chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor) and Lynn Woolsey (chair of the committee’s subcommittee on Workforce Protections) want OSHA to improve control of reactive hazards, and in the interim, issue a compliance directive covering these hazards “in view of the decades-long history of death and injuries from reactive chemical accidents,” according to their letter.

The renewed pressure on OSHA was triggered by the Chemical Safety Board’s investigative findings that a December, 2007 explosion in a Jacksonville, Florida, production plant (T2 Laboratories) which killed four employees and injured 32 was caused by a runaway chemical reaction involving sodium, a highly reactive alkali metal.

The CSB noted in its final report on the T2 Laboratories incident that OSHA has not implemented the CSB’s previous recommendation to expand coverage under its process safety rule for reactive hazards.

Between January 1920 and June 2001, CSB has documented 167 serious reactive incidents in the U.S., resulting in 108 deaths and hundreds of injuries. Between 2001 and 2006, CSB has documented another 249 uncontrolled chemical accidents.

“With a change in administration and its renewed focus on worker safety, we are optimistic that you will see the urgency in placing a reactive hazards rule back on the regulatory agenda,” wrote Miller and Woolsey.