What were the US Chemical Safety Board’s recommendations in 2011?

We’ve heard a lot of talk recently about the recommendations that the US Chemical Safety Board made to WV officials following their investigation of the explosion of the process tank at the local Bayer Crop Science plant that killed two workers in 2008.

In his January 12, 2014 article in the Charleston Gazette, Ken Ward noted that no public officials in the Kanawha Valley had done anything to implement the CSB’s 2011 recommendations from the 2008 Bayer explosion.  There are now calls from many people to implement these recommendations following the Freedom Industries catastrophe.

So let’s take a look at the recommendations.  I have taken the relevant list of recommendations from the CSB’s Web page on the 2008 Bayer investigation.  A number of those recommendations were addressed to Bayer and to other federal agencies.  The recommendations below are the ones that applied directly to WV agencies.

For Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department


Establish a Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program to enhance the prevention of accidental releases of highly hazardous chemicals, and optimize responses in the event of their occurrence. In establishing the program, study and evaluate the possible applicability of the experience of similar programs in the country, such as those summarized in Section 5.3 of this report. As a minimum:

a. Ensure that the new program:
1. Implements an effective system of independent oversight and other services to enhance the prevention of accidental releases of highly hazardous chemicals
2. Facilitates the collaboration of multiple stakeholders in achieving common goals of chemical safety; and,
3. Increases the confidence of the community, the workforce, and the local authorities in the ability of the facility owners to prevent and respond to accidental releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

b. Define the characteristics of chemical facilities that would be covered by the new Program, such as the hazards and potential risks of their chemicals and processes, their quantities, and similar relevant factors;

c. Ensure that covered facilities develop, implement, and submit for review and approval:
1. Applicable hazard and process information and evaluations.
2. Written safety plans with appropriate descriptions of hazard controls, safety culture and human factors programs with employee participation, and consideration of the adoption of inherently safer systems to reduce risks
3. Emergency response plans; and,
4. Performance indicators addressing the prevention of incidents and chemical incidents.

d. Ensure that the program has the right to evaluate the documents submitted by the covered facilities, and to require modifications, as necessary

e. Ensure that the program has right-of-entry to covered facilities, and access to requisite information to conduct periodic audits of safety systems and investigations of chemical releases;

f. Establish a system of fees assessed on covered facilities sufficient to cover the oversight and related services to be provided to the facilities including necessary technical and administrative personnel; and,

g. Consistent with applicable law, ensure that the program provides reasonable public participation with the program staff in review of facility programs and access to:
1. The materials submitted by covered facilities (e.g., hazard evaluations, safety plans, emergency response plans);
2. The reviews conducted by program staff and the modifications triggered by those reviews;
3. Records of audits and incident investigations conducted by the program;
4. Performance indicator reports and data submitted by the facilities, and;
5. Other relevant information concerning the hazards and the control methods overseen by the program.

h. Ensure that the program will require a periodic review of the designated agency activities and issue a periodic public report of its activities and recommended action items

For Kanawha-Putnam Emergency Planning Committee


Work with the Kanawha and Putnam counties Emergency Response Directors to prepare and issue a revision to the Kanawha Putnam County Emergency Response Plan and Annexes to address facility emergency response and Incident Command when such functions are provided by the facility owner.

For Secretary of  WV DEP


Work with the Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to ensure the successful planning, fee collection, and implementation of the Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program as described in Recommendation 2008-08-WV-R6, above, including the provision of services to all eligible facilities in the State.

For Secretary of the WV Dept of Health and Human Services


Work with the Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department to ensure the successful planning, fee collection, and implementation of the Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program as described in Recommendation 2008-08-WV-R6, above, including the provision of services to all eligible facilities in the State.

For WV Fire Commission


Revise the Fire Department Evaluation Administrative Section Matrix addressing the periodic inspection of local fire departments to include a requirement for inspectors to examine and identify the status of National Incident Management System fire department personnel training.

There are three important things to note about these recommendations -

  1. They apply only to “highly hazardous chemicals.”  None of the chemicals leaked by Freedom Industries into the Elk River were in any way classified as “highly hazardous chemicals.”  So following all of the CSB’s recommendations would have had little impact on the current situation.  This is not to say that the CSB’s recommendations aren’t desperately needed for other reasons, but they do not directly apply to the chemicals in MCHM or PPH.
  2. They are addressed primarily to the director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department with other state agencies only designated as assisting the Health Department.  In other words, the WV Legislature does not need to act to effect the implementation of any of these recommendations.  The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department can start that process at any time.  All they need is cooperation and funding from local governments and other state agencies.  They don’t need the Legislature or the Governor to take any actions.
  3. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department needs money to implement these recommendations.  The Kanawha County Commission and the City of Charleston are responsible for seeing that the Health Department has the money to do the job.  So far, these local government bodies have not seen fit to protect the citizens of their community by providing that money.


If you want to see that the CSB recommendations are implemented, you need to be going to the regular Kanawha County Commission meetings and the meetings of the Charleston City Council.  You need to ask them why they didn’t do their jobs to protect your families and your jobs and demand that they give the Health Department the money it needs to implement the CSB’s recommendations.

And don’t let them whine about how “this is unacceptable” the way Gov. Tomblin and Secretary Huffman have.  They need to stop whining and start acting.  All of these politicians were willing to “accept” the chemical industries dangerous practices, until it was too late.



  1. […] Here is a link to my earlier post which includes the list of CSB recommendations.  In the recent interview, Dr. Gupta addresses both of the issues I raised in my earlier post.  He states clearly that the CSB recommendations should be expanded to cover all tier two chemicals like MCHM and PPH, and he states that no government authorities, at either the state or county or city level have provided the resources to implement the recommendations.  He notes that the CSB recommendations specifically provide for fees placed on industry to fund implementation. […]

  2. […] last Monday came and went without any bill introduced to implement the Chemical Safety Board’s recommendation of a Hazardous Chemical Release Prevention Program, the only way to get that into law this year is now to have it amended into SB […]

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