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USW testifies on exec order on chemical facility safety

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WASHINGTON (March 10, 2014) — President Barack Obama’s executive order to improve chemical facility safety and security is a laudable step, especially for workers in chemical plants, two top officials of the United Steelworkers union told a Senate committee March 6.

“The president’s executive order is extremely important for our members because they suffer the consequences when employers and regulations do not do enough to prevent catastrophic releases and exposures,” said Carol Landry, USW International vice president at large, before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Our members’ experiences have demonstrated the importance of federal information coordination and information sharing,” added James Frederick, assistant director of the USW health, safety and environment department.

President Obama’s order set up a working group headed by the Department of Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The order charges the three agencies with:

• Improving operational coordination with state and local partners;

• Enhancing coordination and information sharing among federal agencies;

• Modernizing policies, regulations and standards regarding chemical facility safety; and

• Working with stakeholders to identify best practices.

Mr. Frederick and Ms. Landry urged the working group to develop and promote safer chemical processes and to involve workers in that process.

The massive mining-related chemical spill in Charleston, W. Va., and the catastrophic chemical plant explosion in West, Texas, underline the importance of improving chemical facility safety, they said.

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