Update about the Chemical Safety Board [Webinar Recording]

On March 16, 2021, Eric J. ConnMicah Smith and Beeta B. Lashkari presented a webinar regarding “Update about the Chemical Safety Board.”

For a small agency, a lot happened at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (the CSB) last year – and not all related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the CSB promulgated an accidental release reporting rule, requiring employers to report certain chemical incidents to the CSB. Although the rule went into effect last Spring, the CSB set a 1-year enforcement “grace period” to allow time for the regulated community to become familiar with the rule, and for the Agency to develop guidance about the new rule. With the grace period ending later this month, on March 23, 2021, it is critical for employers to understand their new compliance obligations.

In addition, with expired terms, early departures, and the swearing in of a new Chairperson (but no other Board members), the CSB’s Board became a “quorum of one” for the first time, begging questions about its authority to vote on mission-critical work product, such as investigation reports, and its ability to conduct the agency’s business. Although Pres. Biden will likely nominate new Board Members, the Senate confirmation process can be a slog, meaning the CSB may maintain a quorum of one for an extended period.

Participants in this webinar learned about: Continue reading

[Webinar] Update about the Chemical Safety Board

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021 from 1:00 P.M. to 2:15 P.M., join Eric J. ConnMicah Smith and Beeta B. Lashkari for a webinar regarding “Update about the Chemical Safety Board.”

For a small agency, a lot happened at the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (the CSB) last year – and not all related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the CSB promulgated an accidental release reporting rule, requiring employers to report certain chemical incidents to the CSB. Although the rule went into effect last Spring, the CSB set a 1-year enforcement “grace period” to allow time for the regulated community to become familiar with the rule, and for the Agency to develop guidance about the new rule. With the grace period ending later this month, on March 23, 2021, it is critical for employers to understand their new compliance obligations.

In addition, with expired terms, early departures, and the swearing in of a new Chairperson (but no other Board members), the CSB’s Board became a “quorum of one” for the first time, begging questions about its authority to vote on mission-critical work product, such as investigation reports, and its ability to conduct the agency’s business. Although Pres. Biden will likely nominate new Board Members, the Senate confirmation process can be a slog, meaning the CSB may maintain a quorum of one for an extended period.

Participants in this webinar will learn about: Continue reading

BREAKING – CSB Issues Final Accidental Release Reporting Rule

By Eric J. Conn and Beeta Lashkari

Last week, on the day of a federal district court-mandated deadline — Wednesday, February 5, 2020 — the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (the CSB) announced its Final Rule on Accidental Release Reporting. The CSB posted a prepublication version of the Final Rule last week, on February 5th.  The official version should be published in the Federal Register within the next few days.

As we previously reported, on December 12, 2019, the CSB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its new reporting rule, which set out the circumstances when facility owners and operators are required to file reports with the CSB about certain accidental chemical releases and what must be communicated in the reports.Picture1

As stated in the NPRM, the purpose of the rule is “to ensure that the CSB receives rapid, accurate reports of any accidental release that meets established statutory criteria.”

The rule requires owners and operators of stationary sources to report accidental releases that result in a fatality, a serious injury, or substantial property damage to the CSB within eight hours.  The specific information required to be provided in the accidental release report includes:

  1. A brief description of the accidental release;
  2. Whether the release resulted in a fire, explosion, death, serious injury, or property damage;
  3. The number of fatalities and/or serious injuries, and the estimated property damage at or outside the stationary source;
  4. The name of the material involved;
  5. The amount of the release; and
  6. Whether the accidental release resulted in an evacuation order impacting members of the general public and other details associated with the evacuation.

Issuance of the CSB’s reporting rule has been a long time coming.  Although the CSB did not become operational until 1998, its enabling legislation – the Clean Air Act Amendments – was enacted in 1990.  That statute, from nearly thirty years ago, expressly required the agency to issue a rule governing the reporting of accidental releases to the CSB.  Although the CSB submitted an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Chemical Release Reporting in 2009, that effort died on the vine.  Accordingly, the CSB has never had its own reporting rule, relying instead on other sources to receive incident information.  In February 2019, however, Continue reading

Coalition to Comment on CSB’s Proposed Accidental Release Reporting Rule

Last week, the CSB issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for its accidental release reporting rule, which establishes the criteria for when facility owners and operators are required to report to CSB accidental chemical release incidents and what must be included in those reports.  Here is a link to an article we posted that summarizes the CSB’s proposal and background about the situation. If promulgated, the rule would require owners and operators of stationary sources to report to the CSB within four hours any accidental chemical releases that results in a:

  • Fatality;
  • Serious injury; or
  • Substantial property damage.

A release reporting rule was mandated by the CSB’s enabling statute (decades ago), but the Agency had never issued such a rule. In February of this year, however, a federal court ordered the CSB to promulgate a final reporting rule within 12 months of the  court’s ruling—by mid-February 2020.  With CSB waiting until the 11th hour to publish this NPRM, interested stakeholders have only a very small window to make sure their concerns about the proposed rule are heard.  Comments are due to the CSB by January 13, 2020, and because the deadline to promulgate the rule is court-mandated, there likely will be no extension of the comment period.

Although the proposal indicated that CSB contemplated some of the duplicative effort that a separate CSB reporting rule would require, the proposed rule does not come close to addressing employers’ legitimate concerns about the burden this reporting requirement will place on employers at a time when their attention should be focused on emergency response. To compound the problem, the scope of reportable incidents and criteria for reportability aligns neither with CSB’s investigative jurisdiction nor with other agencies’ already-existing reporting requirements, and, as formulated, could create disincentives for robust internal reporting of incidents.

Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA • Workplace Safety Practice Group is coordinating an ad hoc coalition of employers to prepare a set of comments to submit to the CSB. Continue reading