When dust explosions happen, the Chemical Safety Board leads the investigation of the accident. Now, the CSB’s future is looking increasingly uncertain as pressures increase to eliminate the crucial safety board.
The board started operating in 1998 for the purpose of determining what causes serious industrial accidents. Any explosion, fire, leak, or spill qualifies for a CSB investigation. Since its creation, CSB has investigated more than 130 accidents to determine the cause of more than 200 workers deaths and 1,200 workplace injuries.
What the CSB Has Accomplished
The Chemical Safety Board has investigated some of the most severe industrial accidents of the last 20 years. The board handled the 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, California. This fire forced over 15,000 people to require medical care. Chevron resisted the investigation, but the CSB persevered and found that the company caused the accident by neglecting aging equipment.
The CSB also investigated the 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion, an incident that killed 15 people and destroyed 350 homes when the plant exploded with the force of 10 tons of TNT. The CSB determined that West Fertilizer Co. officials failed to store chemicals safely. However, the safety concerns did not stop with company officials. The board also found that federal, state, and local regulations across the nation were not adequate to protect communities surrounding 1,351 facilities like the one that exploded.
Issues Faced by the CSB
The White House has recently attempted to eliminate the CSB on multiple occasions. The current administration has tried twice to use budget cuts to eliminate the organization. Federal officials argue that the board is redundant because other agencies handle similar types of investigations. However, health and safety advocates say the board is needed to investigate some of the deadliest industrial accidents in the United States. They argue that the organization's findings during past accidents make it crucial to saving the lives of American workers.
Underfunded & Under Pressure
Funding has always been an issue for the CSB. It was created in 1990 but received no funding until 1998. It is possible that financing only occurred because an accident happened near the home of a US senator. Through the decades, legislators have funneled funding toward the CSB in a similar fashion. Notably, the CSB never seems to be neglected until the moment it is needed. When an accident occurs, an outsider frequently must act to funnel money towards the CSB.
Today, the organization only receives about $11 million in funding. While this may seem like a significant amount of money, it pales in comparison to the $100 million that organizations such as the National Transportation Safety Board receives. Many industrial safety advocates believe that this lack of funding is caused by a lack of awareness from the public. The NTSB has a more visible impact in the lives of more Americans. However, this does not make the protection of America’s workers any less important. Notably, the problem isn’t just limited to workers. A Congressional Research Service report estimated that industrial plants could harm between 10,000 and 1,000,000 people living nearby in dense urban and suburban populations. Even though the problem isn’t visible to the public, it persists as a real threat to it.
If you have been injured, contact the industrial accident attorneys at Arnold & Itkin today for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629.