CSB Chairman Moure-Eraso Urges Adoption of Inherently Safer Technology

Published July 5, 2012

A June 23 op-ed by U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso in West Virginia’s Saturday Gazette-Mail urged government and industry to move toward inherently safer technology. "The principles of inherently safer technology, or IST, have the potential to make chemical production safer for workers and the public…across the country," he writes. The op-ed follows recently released findings of a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) study commissioned by CSB "on the feasibility of implementing safer alternative chemicals and processes" in the wake of the 2008 explosion at the Bayer CropScience plant in Institute, W.Va.

The Bayer explosion and fire killed two workers when a residue treater vessel exploded during a post-maintenance startup. If debris from the explosion had hit piping over an aboveground tank of methyl isocyanate (MIC), Moure-Eraso noted, the highly toxic chemical could have been released into the atmosphere.

The NAS panel found that "industry as a whole lacks a common understanding of what is needed to identify inherently safer processes and accurately quantify their benefits." Ultimately, the NAS study found that Bayer and previous owners of the site incorporated some IST but "did not perform systematic and complete inherently safer process assessments on the processes for manufacturing MIC or the carbamate pesticides at the Institute site."

Moure-Eraso confronts the continuing opposition and resistance to IST, stating that CSB has found "many important examples" of how to implement IST "at a manageable cost.”

Read the full op-ed.