IME Responds to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board Report and Recommendations from the West Fertilizer Explosion and Fire

01/26/2016

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report and safety recommendations resulting from the April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate (AN) fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in West, Texas.  The Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME) applauds the thorough investigation conducted by the CSB and the release of the report, which was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 2013 tragedy.    

Ammonium Nitrate (AN) is a stable chemical substance.  Its behavior is known, understood, and predictable, and it does not present a hazard to workers or the public when managed properly in accordance with existing regulatory requirements, good industry practices, and IME’s Safety and Security Guidelines for Ammonium Nitrate (AN Guidelines).  Since 1971, the manufacture and storage of AN has been regulated under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules (see Explosives and Blasting Regulations, 29 CFR 1910.109(i)).  No known accidental detonation of AN has occurred where a facility has been compliant with this OSHA standard.  Notwithstanding this safety record, IME commends CSB for its recommendation that OSHA update these regulations.  IME has consistently encouraged OSHA to take this action and has advocated that the regulations include integration of IME’s AN Guidelines, which were drafted in collaboration with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Society of Explosives Engineers, and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association.  

“The commercial explosives industry has an impeccable safety record, which includes the handling of millions of tons of AN annually,” according to John Sonday, Chairman of the Board of the IME.  “Nevertheless, to further improve safe handling of AN, OSHA’s existing regulations should be upgraded to match IME’s AN Guidelines, which include provisions against fighting fires involving AN, prohibiting wooden storage bins, and the preparation of written emergency response plans and associated training.”    

Debra Satkowiak, President of the IME, added, “IME appreciates CSB’s recognition that properly followed regulatory safety standards and best practices for storing and handling Technical Grade AN used in the explosives industry have been effective and do not warrant new regulatory programs to protect our workers and surrounding communities.  The imposition of requirements as complex as those under OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard or the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule would be redundant, and would likely only serve to increase regulatory burden and cost with no commensurate value to safety.  With that in mind, we believe it would be the best use of limited agency resources to focus on updating OSHA’s Explosives and Blasting regulations; compliance assistance; and enforcement initiatives that would capture outlier facilities, protect the safety of workers and the public, and prevent future tragedies.”  

IME was formed over 100 years ago to promote safety in the commercial explosives industry, a mission we proudly share with the CSB.  For more information on the IME, visit www.ime.org.