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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 26, 2005

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

DEP COMMISSIONER ESTABLISHES WORKER INSPECTION PROCESS TO IMPROVE SAFETY
Measure Adopted to Prevent Chemical Accidents and to Protect Surrounding Neighborhoods

(05/115) TRENTON -- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced new measures to include workers in inspections at industrial sites covered by New Jersey’s Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) to provide greater protection for residents living nearby.

“Greater participation by workers to identify and resolve potential threats involving the use of hazardous chemicals in the industrial process will make neighborhoods safer and is good business policy,” said Acting Governor Richard J. Codey. “We will work with New Jersey businesses to ensure this initiative improves risk prevention plans for each facility.”

Commissioner Campbell signed an Administrative Order that establishes procedures for employees and their representatives to participate in DEP inspections, investigations or audits of facilities regulated by TCPA and the law’s associated rules and regulations.

“New Jersey’s newly adopted worker participation standard is a first-in-the-nation for the inspection of facilities that handle extraordinary hazardous substances,” said Commissioner Campbell. “Workers know their own facilities, and can help us strengthen protection of communities from the risk of catastrophic accidents.”

Under the order, DEP seeks to maximize opportunities for employees of these facilities and operations to participate in inspections conducted under TCPA. These inspections will help identify environmental health and public safety hazards and potential sources of toxic releases that include, but are not limited to, such hazards resulting from an intentional terrorist attack.

Currently, 101 facilities fall under the requirements of the TCPA program, which mandates they implement risk management programs. These companies represent industries such as water treatment plants, chemical manufacturers, food manufacturers and processors, pharmaceutical companies, refineries and warehouses.

DEP regularly inspects TCPA companies to review facility risk management plans and on-site vulnerabilities. DEP also requires facilities to drill their emergency response plans each year with employee participation.

“We applaud DEP for making New Jersey the first state in the nation to take this important step to protect workers, communities and the environment,” said Rick Engler, director of the New Jersey Work Environment Council, a coalition of 70 labor unions and environmental organizations. “Workers are uniquely positioned to point out chemical hazards to DEP inspectors. Nobody knows the workplace better than the men and women who work there every day.”

DEP also works with the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force to oversee companies’ implementation of best management practices at their facilities to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack. These operational challenges are a pressing homeland security issue, acknowledged by federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as by industry groups such as the American Chemistry Council and American Petroleum Institute.

In addition, TCPA rules mandate that all facilities regulated under the program evaluate state of the art technologies every five years to reduce the risk of an accident and implement this technology if cost effective. The state of the art standard also applies for new processes when a company expands or changes operations.

In 2003, DEP formally added reactive chemicals to the list of extraordinarily hazardous substances that trigger risk management planning requirements of TCPA. These chemicals can explode when accidentally exposed to air or water, or when they are improperly mixed with certain other chemicals. The force of the explosion can kill or permanently disable people outside the facility.

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NJDEP -Administrative Order 2005-05 (pdf)
http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2005/05_0115ao.pdf

NJDEP -Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act Program
http://www.nj.gov/dep/rpp/tcpa/

 

 

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Last Updated: September 26, 2005