Chemical Plant Training for Security

Safety, 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 training in creating better opportunities from your biggest challenges.


Chemical plants are one of the nation’s largest potential terrorism targets. They use and store chemicals that have the potential to injure or kill millions of people. Per plant. Terrorists could meet their mass casualty goals from either a direct attack, or by stealing chemicals like ammonia to be used elsewhere. Fortunately, most chemical plants are aware of this risk and have taken measures to establish proper workplace security training. Even the federal government has stepped in to partially regulate certain plants that use or store certain chemicals in large quantities. But, what else can be done?

Many of the more obvious safeguards have already been put into place. Companies have invested in more security guards, higher fences, and stronger locks and gates, for example. Where they can, or, in some cases, in accordance with government regulations, plants have also begun using alternative chemicals that are safer; those that have less potential for widespread destruction, or those that carry significantly less health risks. Clorox, for example, announced in 2009 that it will convert its seven U.S. plants using deadly chlorine gas to safer chemical processes in manufacturing household cleaning products. That move alone eliminated the potentially disastrous chlorine gas health risk to some 13 million people who live around the seven plants. Clorox CEO Donald Knauss said the conversion will, “strengthen our operations and add another layer of security.”

None of these security measures mean anything, however, if chemical plant employees aren’t paying attention, or if they don’t know what they’re looking for. When gates are left open, guards are not where they should be, and people off the street are able to gain full access to storage tanks before anyone even knows they’re on the property, that’s a big problem.

This is where security guard training can really pay off. And not just for your employees who are traditionally involved in security. All facility employees need awareness training. Everyone should know who is supposed to be on site, what the reporting process is for reporting suspicious activity, and what the potential fallout would be should a terrorist target their plant. Employees also need to know that they will not be chastised for reporting suspicious activity that turns out to be nothing at all.  A lot of people don’t make reports for fear of being wrong. What if you accused someone of potential terrorist activity, and that person turned out to be a new employee? Well, the answer is…what if you didn’t report that person, and he blew up your tank? Failure to report also comes from
making assumptions, like “that person is already at a storage tank. He must have security clearance.” Awareness training is just what its name implies: learning to be aware of your surroundings. This is just as important as chemical plant training.

Going beyond awareness training, your basic plant operations training should include legislation such as the Chemical-terrorism Vulnerability Information (CVI) law. This law protects any information that could potentially expose specific chemical plant vulnerabilities from being publicly disclosed in any way. It should be obvious how valuable such information can be to a terrorist. Employees need to know what CVI is, how to evaluate another party’s need to know as it pertains to CVI, how to handle various disclosures, etc. This is a lot of information, and it changes periodically. Ensuring your employees know the laws that protect against terrorism is another important way that security guard training can help you turn one of your biggest challenges into an opportunity to stay ahead of the game.

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