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Legislators urge OSHA to update the ammonium nitrate standard



Three U.S. lawmakers are urging the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to update its ammonium nitrate standard in the wake of the deadly Beirut explosion earlier this month.

Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Va .; Alma Adams, D-N.C .; and Joe Courtney, D-Conn. presented a letter Tuesday to U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, noting that the current ammonium nitrate standard is nearly 50 years old and the Process Safety Management Standard, which protects workers from chemical plant disasters, is nearly 30 years old.

In 2013, President Barack Obama signed an executive order demanding an update to the standards following an ammonium nitrate explosion that year at a facility in West, Texas, killing 1

5 people, including 12 rescue workers. Ammonium nitrate is a highly reactive chemical that is mainly used for fertilizers.

The legislators noted that the Government's Responsibility Committee in 2014 and the Chemical Safety Board in 2016 recommended OSHA to update the standards.

“To prevent future tragedies such as the explosions in West, Texas or Beirut, Lebanon, we urge you to put the Process Safety Management Standard back on the active legislative agenda and invest resources to ensure that it is issued quickly to protect construction workers, rescue workers and the surrounding communities from the tragic consequences of ammonium nitrate explosions, ”they wrote.

The letter also asked OSHA to either cover ammonium nitrate in its PSM standard or to update the agency's independent ammonium nitrate standard. Ammonium nitrate was not covered by the PSM standard when it was issued in 1992.

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