August 23, 2022 / Larry Sloan

Essential Guidelines for Emergency Response

For many years, AIHA has produced community emergency exposure limits known as Emergency Response Planning Guidelines. ERPGs are air concentration guidelines for single exposures to agents and are intended for use in assessing accident prevention and emergency response plans. Managed under the AIHA Guideline Foundation, ERPGs and their associated reference documents are prepared by a team of volunteer health scientists. These guidelines are highly valued: they are referenced in EPA's Risk Management Plan rule and incorporated into the Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations (CAMEO) software suite, which was developed jointly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Response and Restoration, the EPA Office of Emergency Management, and the Department of Energy.

Community emergency exposure limits are essential in emergency preparedness and response. They are used to assess the impact of a potential event and enable the subsequent development of prevention or mitigation strategies. Previously, EPA produced community emergency exposure limits known as acute exposure guideline levels, or AEGLs, which were published every year by the National Academies Press. In 2015, the National Research Council, a committee of the National Academies, assumed responsibility for updating the AEGLs. Since then, however, NRC has produced only one new volume of AEGLs, which was published in 2016.

With AEGLs development stalled, AIHA is one of the few entities worldwide that produces new community emergency exposure limits and updates them regularly. But work on the ERPGs is not funded, and stakeholders are concerned about the future of these crucial guidelines.

Earlier this year, AIHA teamed up with an outside consulting firm to introduce ERPGs to key stakeholders in the chemical industry by showcasing their value in meeting stewardship and sustainability goals. In addition, we hoped to gain strategic support and identify new financial donors to help the Guideline Foundation support the program.

The 52 individuals who responded to the survey represent companies with an average annual revenue of $2.2 billion. Close to 40 percent of respondents are OEHS professionals, with another 17 percent representing upper management and 12 percent representing process safety management.

The survey results indicated high adoption of ERPGs. Three-quarters of respondents are very aware of ERPGs, and 67 percent use them in their emergency response planning. Even companies with internal guidelines often use them in combination with ERPGs. Companies that produce at least one chemical listed in the ERPG handbook are more likely to use them. ERPGs are widely used for process safety and risk management, followed by general emergency response, community awareness, and stewardship programs. However, ERPGs are less commonly published on safety data sheets.

Those surveyed also conveyed a strong positive impression of the Guideline Foundation’s work: 90 percent view ERPGs as relevant to their business. All respondents agreed that it is important to update and develop ERPGs and that AIHA is best positioned to manage this activity compared to, say, the federal government.

But survey respondents do not have influence over funding decisions, and the need for corporate or organizational contributors remains. Companies that produce EPRG-listed chemicals and those that rely on third parties for guidelines are the most promising sources of funding. AIHA continues to explore these avenues and would welcome your input on establishing new funding contacts. Please leave your recommendations in the comments or contact me directly.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.


There are no submissions.

Add a Comment