According to an article in Chemistry World, the federal government doesn’t have accurate information on how often industrial chemical accidents occur throughout the nation. The reporting, using information from a Dallas Morning News report, found that the accuracy rate for the data on chemical accidents was roughly 10%. This was after examination of in excess of 750,000 federal records.
Interest in the government’s ability to track chemical accidents was renewed after the West, TX fertilizer chemical plant exploded in April 2013. Investigation into that incident had federal authorities claiming that ammonium nitrate was stored improperly at the facility and caused the accident. A total of 14 people died in the incident and more than 200 were injured, according to the Chemistry World report.
The essence of this data makes it difficult to determine whether US industries are getting safer or more dangerous in terms of how they handle chemicals. Since the West accident, there have been requirements put in place that chemical accident data sharing be improved. According to the Morning News, referenced in the Chemical World report, even this mandate won’t help the government if the problems with reporting aren’t addressed first.
Chemicals in the Workplace
Workers have the right to know what they are being exposed to, to detailed information on whatever they are being exposed to via an MSDS sheet and to training if they are expected to be in the presence of dangerous chemicals. When they are not provided with this, employers are sometimes liable for injury and accidental death payments.