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EPA, OSHA, DHS Agree to Create New Protocols Requiring Notification And Coordination With First Responders

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) on March 20, 2018, announced that, after his intervention, representatives from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are working to create new protocols for communicating and training with local governments and first responders.  OSHA, EPA and DHS will convene the Chemical Facility Security and Safety Working Group (Working Group), which will coordinate strategies, activities, policies, and communication to address concerns that there should be an immediate and more thorough improvement of OSHA’s coordination and communication systems to local municipalities and their respective stakeholders.  Specifically, the Working Group is moving forward with a new partnership between the agencies regarding the coordination of communication between state and local governments when there is a serious violation cited.  The protocol will address the lack of communication with local first responders, safety and training agreements, and coordination on information sharing about all the relevant agencies when a local company is cited for serious violations -- like the reported mishandling of Verla International’s (Verla) use of flammable liquids.  

The new protocol is intended to ensure that emergency response agencies are notified when a facility receives a serious health or environmental violation, so that they can proactively prevent accidents and prepare to respond when accidents and fires occur.  Specifically, the Working Group is tasked with:

  • Developing appropriate means for sharing information with first responders to enhance their ability to safely and effectively plan for and respond to incidents in their jurisdiction;

  • Developing tools, training, and resources to strengthen State Emergency Response Commissions and Local Emergency Planning Committees;

  • Coordinating with agencies beyond DHS, EPA, and OSHA by working with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and, in this instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as appropriate, to address incidents involving hazardous materials and the effects these incidents have on workers and communities;

  • Coordinating information sharing across the interagency community and with state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners; and

  • Leveraging limited resources across all levels of government by conducting and facilitating cross-training to raise awareness of other programs.

In April 2017, OSHA cited Verla’s cosmetic factory in New Windsor, New York for improper storage of flammable liquids that resulted in several serious violations, and in November 2017 there was an explosion and fire at the factory where one worker was killed and 40 people, including seven firefighters, were injured -- a tragedy that may have been avoided had the first responders been notified of the violations and known better how to handle the situation.  Senator’s Schumer’s concerns about the lack of communication and notification stem from these events.  He states the new protocols “will provide technical expertise and tighter coordination with federal and regional first responder operations to try to make sure the lack of communication and awareness of preexisting issues faced by first responders back in November is a thing of the past.”

©2019 Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

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About this Author

Lynn Bergeson, Campbell PC, Toxic Substances Control Act Attorney, federal insecticide lawyer, industrial biotechnology legal counsel, Food Drug Administration law
Managing Partner

Owner of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), Lynn L. Bergeson has earned an international reputation for her deep and expansive understanding of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), and especially how these regulatory programs pertain to nanotechnology, industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology, and other emerging transformative technologies. Her knowledge of and involvement in the policy...

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Christopher Bryant delivers over 20 years of experience in environmental, health and safety compliance and legislative, regulatory and policy issues. Clients benefit from both his extensive field experience at the implementation level and his extraordinary knowledge of how regulations, policies, and legislation impact business operations. When General Electric selected a handful of professionals to develop and deliver global leadership EHS training, Christopher Bryant was at the top of their list.

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Margaret Graham, Environmental Science and Policy Paralegal, Bergeson Campbell Law firm
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Margaret R. Graham (Maggie), a paralegal with Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®), holds a Masters degree in Environmental Science and Policy, and has over a decade of paralegal experience, including eight years focused in federal regulatory law.  Her understanding of environmental policy and the administrative and legislative process involved in regulatory compliance makes her an invaluable resource to B&C staff and clients, who rely on her research, project management, and writing and editing skills to complete efficiently briefs, pleadings, and other documents.

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