Georgia workers may know that the Department of Homeland Security maintains a database of facilities that store ammonium nitrate, a combustive substance used in fertilizer and explosives. The database covers roughly one-third of all sites that store the mineral and federal regulatory agencies face company non-compliance, loopholes and exemptions that undermine their effectiveness in supervising it. A report revealed that problems exist at all levels, and President Obama has asked a working group to explore the situation. A Government Accountability Office report was recently released and points to numerous problems including worker protection.
In April 2013, a fertilizer plant exploded in Texas killing 14 people. The plant stocked ammonium nitrate. The DHS reported 1,345 facilities store ammonium nitrate yet a recent survey found that this represented about a third of such storage facilities. The GAO said 120 storage sites have nursing homes, schools, or medical facilities within the zone that may be affected by a blast.
Inspection by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is limited due to the failure of the Environmental Protection Agency to designate ammonium nitrate as a hazardous substance. The OSHA requirements are aimed at facilities that use it to manufacture explosives and has cited only one facility in 40 years.
Worker safety depends on frequent inspection of facilities and company compliance with regulations governing their industry. When workers are injured or killed on the job in industrial workers’ accidents, they may seek workers’ compensation or choose to file a claim in a civil court. If an injured worker chooses to file for workers’ compensation, they must do so within a prescribed time period. An attorney may help a worker or their family, if a worker was killed in an accident, by offering guidance into the filing process or advice concerning a civil case.
Source: PBS, “Federal investigation reveals little oversight of U.S. chemical plants“, Hope Yen, May 21, 2014