explosionWith the devastating April 2013 explosion in West, Texas still fresh in the minds of Americans, OSHA is hoping that a just-initiated partnership with the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute will help prevent future tragedies involving ammonium nitrate – the culprit in the West, Texas catastrophe.

Legal requirements and best practices

OSHA plans to use its new partners to reach more than 7,000 agricultural retailers, distributers, producers and other facilities in the fertilizer industry with a letter from Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels that specifies legal requirements and best practice recommendations for safely storing and handling ammonium nitrate.

The accident at the West Texas Fertilizer Company killed 15 people, including 12 emergency response personnel, and damaged or destroyed dozens of buildings in the community. 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.

Following the incident, President Obama issued Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security.

Agencies in EO

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 on the Executive Order, visit www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/index.html.

Employers can view the OSHA letter at www.osha.gov/dep/fertilizer_industry/index.html.

OSHA's Web page on ammonium nitrate safety resources referred to in the letter can be found at www.osha.gov/dep/fertilizer_industry/index.html.