Massachusetts authorities have tightened regulation of hazardous materials storage and processing in the state, including monitoring of high risk facilities to ensure they are complying with key federal process safety and risk management programs.
The action - taken by the Massachusetts
Department of Fire Services in May - satisfied a key recommendation made by the
U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) in its 2008 final
report on the 2006 explosion at an ink and paint products manufacturing
facility in Danvers, a suburb of Boston.
Following its investigation of that
incident, the CSB concluded that an unattended mixing tank overheated in an
unventilated building at CAI Inc., causing the release of flammable vapors
which subsequently ignited. The facility stored alcohols, heptanes, other
solvents, pigments, resin and nitrocellulose; all of it which were destroyed in
the explosion. Twenty-four houses and six businesses were destroyed, and many
other homes were extensively damaged in the blast. Ten people were injured, but
no one was killed, possibly because the accident occurred in the middle of the
night while people were asleep in bed.
The CSB investigation found that CAI had
increased its quantities of flammable liquids over the years. The additional
quantities went undetected by local authorities, who had not inspected the
facility for more four years prior to the time of the incident.
At the time of the accident, mandatory
notification by companies to local authorities that a facility had increased
its quantities of flammable materials from the initial amount listed in the
permit was not well enforced. Therefore, the CSB recommended that Massachusetts
require companies storing and handling flammable materials to amend their
license and re-register with state or local authorities when increasing their
quantities of flammable materials; they must also verify compliance with local,
state fire codes and hazardous chemical regulations.
CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso says, “Massachusetts
authorities have not only adopted the CSB recommendation, but went beyond their
intent with the regulations issued by the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations
in 2012. The Massachusetts approach, if adopted by other states, has the
potential of leveraging the resources of fire authorities to complement the
regulatory and enforcement work of OSHA and the EPA with regard to high hazard
Dr. Moure-Eraso notes that the
Massachusetts regulations classify hazardous materials into five categories
based on threshold quantities. Categories 1 to 4, for example, must be in
compliance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard. Category 5, under which
CAI would have fallen, requires companies to certify compliance with the OSHA
Process Safety Management standard and with the EPA Risk Management Program
regulation. “Had this state regulation been in place, and been enforced, in
2006,” Dr. Moure-Eraso says, “the company and regulators would have been more
likely to have recognized the hazard presented by the operation and to have
prevented the accident.”
Because of the Massachusetts' authorities
actions, the CSB voted unanimously to declare the status of the recommendation
as “Closed - Exceeds Recommended Action.”
However, a key related CSB recommendation
to the state remains open. It urges the Department of Fire Services to audit
local governments and local fire authorities in Massachusetts for their
enforcement of compliance with permit limits and inspection requirements for
storage and handling of flammable materials.
The Department of Fire Services informed
the CSB that it lacks the resources to audit all local government for
compliance; instead, it plans to provide training for local fire authorities to
adequately review permits and inspect facilities for compliance with the new
requirements. Training materials are reportedly in development.
Massachusetts Issues Tough Storage, Processing Rules for Flammable Liquids
June 6, 2012