In a comment to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) on its chemical release reporting rulemaking, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), representing 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members, urged CSB to adopt a rulemaking approach that would avoid adding one more chemical incident reporting requirement when CSB is already effective in obtaining timely chemical incident information, when layers of chemical incident reporting requirements already exist, and when reporting comes at a time when a site supervision team is working to mitigate the impact of an emergency, according to an ASSE press statement.

ASSE’s comment comes in response to an advanced notice of a proposed rulemaking seeking input on possible approaches to a regulation on chemical release reporting. The Clean Air Act, under which CSB was established, requires the CSB to establish a regulation requiring accidental chemical releases be reported to the CSB or to the National Response Center. A 2004 Inspector General report recommended CSB implement the regulation, according to the rulemaking.

According to the press release, ASSE President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, noted in his letter to CSB, “While supportive of CSB’s intent to be thorough in learning all it can about chemical incidents in furtherance of its mission, our members on the front line of managing safety and health report that industry is already reporting sufficient information to regulatory authorities. As the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking itself recognizes, chemical incidents are already required to be reported through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH), the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Additionally, industry is required to report to various state and local agencies.”

ASSE is concerned that adding another reporting requirement solely for the purpose of informing the CSB of an event would only add unnecessary burden and distraction to a supervision team working to mitigate the impact of an emergency.

“For these reasons, ASSE supports the third approach outlined by CSB in the proposed rulemaking which would have the CSB to rely primarily on existing sources for initially learning of chemical incidents, but would follow up on a subset of the incidents to gather additional information through a questionnaire or on-line form that the reporting party would be required by the rule to complete and submit to the CSB,” Patton noted. “ASSE and its members will work with the CSB to help ensure that this rulemaking is effective and continues CSB’s established record of helping industry better protect workers through the lessons learned from its investigations.”

ASSE’s comment added that the rulemaking demonstrated the need for CSB to work with other federal agencies to establish a consolidated federal 911 type of call-in capability to unify the variety of required emergency release responses and urged CSB to provide leadership in developing such a federal capability.