Protecting Chemical Plants from Catastrophic Failures, Part 1

Chemical plant security expert William Wayman offers information on security standards and legislation, and an analysis of industry practices

Another example of a trade-off using the "on-hand" approach: water utilities must weigh the safety benefit of lower inventories of chlorine against the risk of not having adequate stockpiles of this purification chemical, which assures the security of our water supplies.

Despite the many advances of the last few decades and, in particular since 9/11, many problems remain. Although all ACC member companies adopted the ACC's recommendations, this only covered approximately 2,000 of the 15,000 chemical plants in the United States. Many independent users and manufacturers have yet to embrace the Responsible Care? Security Code.

Because of these gaps, there have been several attempts to pass legislation aimed at regulating security for all chemical plants. Nothing has been passed to date in either the House or Senate, but a bill introduced by Senator Joseph Corzine of New Jersey would require companies to perform vulnerability assessments, implement security enhancements, be subject to audits, and actively pursue alternative approaches to the way they manufacture their products (these alternative approaches mirrored some of the steps the industry had voluntarily started to implement).

Senator Corzine's bill has not been passed in large part because it requires chemical producers and users to reduce the amount of chemicals they use and store, and mandates the use of alternative, less hazardous chemicals - two requirements not easily met by industry.

Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced a competing a bill to the Senate in May 2003 that would require the chemical industry to perform vulnerability assessments, implement security enhancements and be subject to audits. It does not, however, require the industry to pursue alternative approaches to the way they manufacture their products. Senator Inhofe's bill has had wide support from the chemical sector and security industry, but the bill was not passed in the last session of Congress.

Regardless of which bill passes, it is only a matter of time before Congress and the Senate pass legislation to regulate the security of the chemical industry.

What the final legislation will include is difficult to determine at present, but with groups like the ACC, the Chlorine Institute and SOCMA, along with safety and security professionals publicly supporting efforts to adopt security-focused legislation that will establish meaningful and effective national guidelines for the entire chemical industry, this legislative session in Washington might finally produce much-needed legislation.

In our second part (which will be available via on March 1, 2005), look for a discussion of common pitfalls and how you can reduce risk at your facility.

About the author: William Wayman, director of security services for TVA Fire & Life Safety, is responsible for managing and providing vulnerability and risk analysis and property hazard control services. In this capacity, he is specialized in the physical security field, and in chemical, petrochemical, heavy industrial, utilities and high-tech industries.