Improved Loading Methods, Equipment Credited with HazMat Accident Drop

April 1, 1999
Greg Rhoads, director of chemical safety for CSX Transportation, reported good news at the 4th annual Chemical Transportation and Distribution Conference

Greg Rhoads, director of chemical safety for CSX Transportation, reported good news at the 4th annual Chemical Transportation and Distribution Conference January 11-13 in Houston, Texas. Despite more hazardous materials being handled by railroads, the accident rate is dropping.

He attributed part of the reduction to shippers and carriers improving loading procedures and equipment. And, he emphasized the importance of companies participating in the Responsible Care initiative, administered by the Chemical Manufacturers Association. The program commits major chemical companies to bettering safety programs and addressing public concerns.

Cherry Burke, DuPont Safety Health & Environment, said DuPont's goal is zero incidents. "DuPont believes that all incidents are preventable," she said. "It's not just a matter of playing games with numbers. If your goal is zero, a single incident is significant."

Risk management is more than route assessment, she pointed out. She listed team reviews that cover distribution, logistics, transportation procurement, business sales and support, equipment, manufacturing, technology, toxicology, safety, regulations, emergency response, carriers, and suppliers.

"Recommendations to carriers should be practical," she said. "If you get carriers involved, you are going to have a much more real-world review." Emphasizing the importance of contracts that involve safety, she said they should be developed jointly, benefit both parties, leave room for continuous improvement, set liability identity, and be partnership-based.

"Any mode can ship safely, if it has the right process," she said. "If the goal is to control risks, then we need to look for ways to get that control back by working with carriers and communities."

One method for working with communities was demonstrated by a discussion of the Channel Industry Mutual Aid (CIMA), a Houston, Texas, organization that includes representatives from the chemical industry, Port of Houston Authority, law enforcement agencies, fire and rescue departments, and other related entities.

The organization provides response services when catastrophes occur by helping to organize public and private emergency units. "What's happening is that industry and the community are growing closer and closer," said John McHazlett, emergency response specialist with Occidental Chemical Corporation.

In response to questions from a shipper about the impact of chemical company mergers on safety, Brian Sossaman of Equistar Chemicals LP said independent response teams have been reduced at many manufacturing sites and the programs consolidated into regional organizations.

McHazlett noted that emergency response contractors are taking over some responsibilities formerly handled by chemical companies and public entities because they are qualified for the situations. "Truck carriers have developed their own in-house teams," he added. "That's something we didn't have in the 1970s."

Mike Boaze, safety representative for Shell Chemical Company, said shippers are becoming more dependent on contract responders who are called to the scene of an incident.

Terry Litchfield, of CXY Chemicals, said that community relationships are often enhanced because companies participate in organizations like Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TransCAER). The program provides assistance for communities to develop and evaluate their emergency response plan for hazardous material transportation incidents. TransCAER is sponsored by 10 nationwide associations engaged in the manufacture, distribution and transportation of hazardous materials.

Companies involved in TransCAER often conduct drills for local emergency responders such as fire fighters and police officers. The drills not only provide excellent training, but they offer an opportunity for positive public awareness, Litchfield said.