Protecting Chemical Plants from Catastrophic Failures, Part 2

A look at the 13 security management practices that can be applied to your facility


The security of chemical facilities and transport systems has been a concern of the chemical industry for many years. In fact, industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association (SOCMA), and the Chlorine Institute, have been diligently working to improve the security of their members' facilities, processes, and products.

To help their members achieve these goals, the ACC, SOCMA, and Chlorine Institute created the Responsible Care Security Code (RCSC), which includes 13 basic management practices that enhance security in the following areas: facilities, cyber, and transportation.

Although no single methodology can work for every facility or situation, the 13 principles laid out by the RCSC can effectively reduce the risk of a wide range of threats and mitigate the effects of terrorism, vandalism, sabotage and workplace violence. And these principals can benefit a wide array of companies - from chemical plants, to bulk refrigeration facilities, to retail outlets.

What follows is a synopsis of the RCSC Managing Practices. They can serve as starting points for evaluating an existing plan or developing a new security program; but they should not be viewed as a complete security plan that will resolve every issue at every facility.

1. Management's Commitment

The commitment to security starts at the top. Senior management must demonstrate through words and actions a clear commitment to security at their company - from corporate headquarters to the most remote facilities.

When a security program has support from senior management, it is more likely that it will be implemented and that staff will comply with it. A commitment from the executive team helps the security staff gain cooperation from fellow employees and obtain the funding and materials necessary to implement security programs.

Key members of management should support the funding and oversee - or even participate in - their company's security planning process. If direct involvement is not possible, they should track and monitor progress and above all, ensure that security concerns are addressed in their strategic and annual budgetary plans.

Activities like these show that the company is committed to the security of the facility, employees, stakeholders and the general public.

2. Assess Threats, Vulnerabilities and Consequences

a. Prioritization

Management must identify all processes that use, produce or transport chemicals that could, if released or stolen, have the potential to cause irreparable harm to people, property or the environment, as well as chemicals that could be used as (or be used to produce) weapons of mass destruction. All chemical facilities, including storage and retail outlets need to be evaluated.

Assessing threats at a facility is a challenging undertaking, but the following criteria can help establish a baseline:

  • The potential danger posed by the materials present
  • The attractiveness of each target
  • The consequences of an attack (on site and off site)
  • The difficulty/ease of mounting an attack
  • The potential for simultaneous attacks against adjacent or neighboring equipment

Formulas exist for assessing all identified vulnerabilities, but space limitations preclude a description of them here. The benefit of assessing facilities is that, once completed, a company can be confident that it is devoting sufficient resources and personnel to the appropriate sites.

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