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PackSafe seeks OSHA action on outdated workplace safety rule

Petition to Update Existing Regulation Builds on Support from Congress and Fire Safety Groups

The Industrial Packaging Safety Alliance (PackSafe) has filed a petition with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requesting that the agency conduct a rulemaking to update an almost 50-year-old rule relating to the safe handling and warehousing of hazardous and non-hazardous materials. The rule in question relates to the use and storage of flammable and combustible liquids in large volume industrial packaging.

PackSafe is a coalition of producers of industrial packaging, their component and raw materials suppliers, as well as customers and manufacturers sharing concerns about the workplace and public safety risks from a rule that has not kept pace over the decades with evolving packaging technology and the development and growth of a broad range of liquid products.

“The OSHA regulation in question incorporates by reference a standard in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30, a flammable and combustible liquids code, dating to the agency’s origins in 1969,” noted John McQuaid, senior advisor to PackSafe. “Since its adoption, the NFPA has updated Code 30 15 times to provide for improved workplace and public safety related to flammable and combustible products, and OSHA has not kept pace.”

“PackSafe’s request,” McQuaid continued, “does not involve creating new regulation, a request that likely would not be well-received in the post-election environment. Rather, our request to update the reference in OSHA’s regulations to the most current version of NFPA 30 is a long overdue, common sense fix to a dangerously outdated standard.”

PackSafe’s initiative has drawn support from a broad range of interests, including the co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, a bi-cameral, bipartisan group of legislators. In an October 12 letter to Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, under whose jurisdiction OSHA operates, Caucus leaders noted, “Fires involving flammable and combustible liquids are a major risk to lives, safety, property, and the environment. According to a 2014 National Fire Protection Association report, during the period from 2007-2011, U.S. municipal fire departments responded to an estimated average of 51,600 fires per year starting with ignition of a flammable gas and another 160,910 fires per year starting with ignition of a flammable or combustible liquid.”

“These fires,” the Caucus leaders continued, “resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths and upwards of $1.5 billion in property damage. Losses such as these could be prevented with updated standards for handling the flammable and combustible liquids that start these fires.”

The Caucus leaders urged OSHA to update its outdated regulation so that it incorporates the most recent edition of NFPA 30 so that the lives of first responders, workers and the public are not further jeopardized due to an outdated workplace safety standard.

Other supporters of updating this existing regulation include the International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Volunteer Fire Council, who earlier in 2016 sent Secretary Perez a joint letter urging OSHA to take action.

 
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