US Chemical Safety Board Shows Growing Priority for Informed First Responders

This month, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recommended new improvements to procedures used by first responders handling chemical fires, explosions, and releases of hazardous materials. Specifically, the CSB has suggested that a standard guidebook published by the Department of Transportation (DOT) be revised to include clearer instructions regarding the book’s use when responding to transportation incidents. The CSB cited the response to the massive fertilizer explosion in West, Texas last year as an example of the dangers that can result when dealing with chemical accidents at fixed facilities as opposed to transportation scenarios.

“We have respectfully submitted our comments to the DOT, based on years of our incident investigations, which show that responders are often not aware that this important manual is intended only for responding to chemical releases or fire incidents in transportation accidents, such as railroad tankers or truck-hauled containers, and not fixed facilities,” said CSB chair Rafael Moure-Eraso in a prepared statement. “Directions on how to respond to incidents at fixed chemical or manufacturing facilities may be much different.”

The CSB is clearly communicating that it has prioritized providing first responders with accurate information about what they face in the field. This latest recommendation is part of a continued trend in the safety community toward ensuring greater first responders readiness through improved communication.

Regulators and government safety entities have taken action before to improve first responder access to hazard information. In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) which requires hazardous chemical emergency planning by federal, state, and local governments, and also by industry. It also mandates that businesses report on their storage, use, and releases of hazardous chemicals. Congress was moved to pass EPCRA in reaction to the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India in which a chemical accident killed or severely injured over 2,000 people.

The continued push toward prioritizing the advance communication of chemical information underscores the need for—and value of—services that let businesses easily and accurately share chemical hazard information with first responders. One new service that does this seamlessly is MSDSonline’s new Plan1 First Responder Share Service

Plan1 is designed to function in tandem with existing safety protocols, providing emergency response teams with quick and easy access to hazardous chemical information through a cloud-based sharing service. Arising organically through hundreds of conversations with MSDSonline customers and first responders, Plan1 is designed to enhance existing emergency response planning and preparedness protocols, while giving first responders access to accurate, updated chemical safety hazard information which can be a resource to them as they respond to a call. Plan1 gives first responders the ability to access potentially lifesaving information provided to them in advance by MSDSonline customers, including facility floor plans, chemical container maps, chemical inventory lists, and MSDSs. It is included free with any MSDSonline HQ or HQ RegXR Account.

For more information about Plan1 or to request a demonstration, click here.

For more information about the new CSB safety recommendations, you can visit their website here.