Environmentalists and Politicians Struggle to Improve Chemical Plant Safety Measures

Reduce Public Health Risk With Chemical Plant Training

A group of environmental and public health organizations are calling for stricter safety legislation for chemical plants. We can start by offering chemical plant training.

A decade after 9/11, environmental and public health officials are once more bringing attention to the potential terrorist threat posed by chemical plants nationwide.

Mid-May, a score of environmental, public health, and labor organizations wrote a letter to President Obama calling for revised safety rules for chemical plants. But these guys are familiar with the Congressional game—new legislation is even less likely to get passed now than when former-Senator Obama initially introduced it in 2006.

The coalition of environmental agencies informed the current administration that the Environmental Protection Agency could implement new safety protocol of its own according to the Clean Air Act. Part of the issue is that the existing chemical safety law doesn’t encourage or incentivize the chemical industry to use safer chemicals and overall processes.

However, the National Association of Chemical Distributors disagrees. President Chris Jahn responded that the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards have already addressed many of these concerns. According to Jahn, some 3,000 sites have lowered risk by volunteering to change chemical ingredients and processes. Jahn argues that we should continue to enforce the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards instead of adding more regulations.

But there’s another solution that would likely help alleviate safety concerns for chemical plants. As the number of skilled manufacturing and chemical operators wanes, the industry turns to chemical plant training. But, training your workforce doesn’t have to be an overwhelming burden for plant owners. Courses in chemical plant operator training are offered at affordable prices online, and you can construct a curriculum based on improving safety regulations.

By transferring knowledge from quality employees on the cusp of retiring to new workers, individual skill sets can be tailored to specific chemical processes, plants, or changes. That level of personalized chemical operations training enhances safety and reduces public risk.

Not to mention, how else can the industry target and harness the raw—albeit untrained—talent of the unemployed? American youth has been especially crippled by unemployment rates, which is the same group that needs to rekindle an interest in chemical plants, manufacturing, welding, and other vocational trades.

In fact, MSNBC says the manufacturing industry will need 140,000 welders by 2019. So, the American Welding Society added a welding merit badge for Boy Scouts to start training young boys. Although there will likely never be a badge for chemical plant operations, the idea of training youth for tradesmen positions is still sound. Young adults equipped with chemical plant operator training have more to offer their industry, and they become an economic asset.

If you truly want to protect the public from chemical accidents or terrorist threats, properly trained chemical operators will both uphold the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards and instigate further progressive measures.

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Chemical Plant Training for Compliance

chemical plant compliance trainingSafety, security, and compliance are three of the biggest issues in chemical manufacturing. Each carries its own challenges, but each challenge also creates an opportunity. Like anything else, you learn from it and grow stronger, or you let it defeat you entirely. In a chemical plant, the latter has the potential to create devastating consequences. This three part series will look at the role of industrial training solutions in creating better opportunities from your biggest challenges.

Compliance

Compliance issues create huge challenges and financial risks for chemical plants. Rules and regulations change frequently, which means your own company policies change to reflect those changes. And compliance is no small thing. In fact, it ties into the safety and security of your plant. Those rules and regulations exist to help ensure worker and environmental safety, among other things. The role chemical plant training plays in mitigating compliance challenges is pretty obvious. You have to train your employees to help them understand what the regulations are, what they mean to them in their daily routines, and what consequences are possible should the plant become non-compliant.

As you are well aware, enforcing policy changes down to the letter can be very difficult. You have the actual law, typically written by one federal entity or another, and then you have your actual company policy that must reflect that law. You, and your employees, need to understand what permits are required, what the stipulations and obligations are to obtaining and maintaining those permits, etc. Fines and penalties for non-compliance are often as high as, if not higher than, those incurred after an accident or spill. So, you can see the potential challenges here. One employee misunderstands a federal law, or misinterprets company policy, and you’re slapped with a $1 million fine. Chemical plant training is a cost-effective way to stay current as the laws and policies change.

Another potential problem, particularly for long-established chemical companies, is understanding how company history may well violate modern regulations. This is most applicable to environmental initiatives, designed to clean up urban rivers and other bodies of water.  If a particular company was around during, say, the Civil War era, when pollution was at an all time high as plants were established, it’s very likely that company contributed to environmental pollution as well. What many companies didn’t expect was to be held accountable for that pollution decades later as rules and regulations evolved into environmental awareness. It’s great for the environment, but really bad for your bottom line. This is another area where wastewater training can help. If you are well versed in the environmental regulations, and you have a deep understanding of your own company’s history, you’re a lot less likely to make costly compliance errors.

The other thing is this: just because you’ve managed to keep your employees up to date on compliance issues, doesn’t mean those same rules and regulations will apply in a few years. Again, these things change. Fortunately, you can usually see the changes coming. Understanding past compliance trends can really help you to anticipate upcoming trends, and handle your compliance training accordingly.

Author: Jennifer Woosley

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