Managing OSHA

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Managing OSHA

Chemical Safety Board Pursues Ambitious and Far-Reaching Five-Year Plan


Chemical Safety Board Pursues Ambitious and Far-Reaching Five-Year Plan

On March 29, 2012, CSB requested public comment on its 2012 – 2016 Strategic Plan. The Plan outlines the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) objectives for the next several years, explaining that it will focus its efforts on conducting incident investigations and safety studies that involve accidental releases or potential releases of hazardous chemicals, and improving safety and environmental protection by securing implementation of CSB recommendations and broadly disseminating CSB findings.

Specifically, CSB announced that it intends to accomplish three major goals:

Goal 1: Conduct incident investigations and safety studies concerning releases of hazardous chemical substances.

CSB intends to achieve this mission by:

  • Selecting incidents and hazards for investigation with high potential to generate recommendations with broad preventative impact.
  • Completing timely, high-quality investigations that examine the technical, management systems, organizational, and regulatory causes of chemical incidents.
  • Developing recommendations that will help prevent chemical incidents.
  • Completing studies with broad safety and environmental preventative impact.
  • Advancing the identification and understanding of new and recurring issues in chemical safety and the environment.

Goal 2: Improve safety and environmental protection by ensuring that CSB recommendations are implemented and by broadly disseminating CSB findings through advocacy and outreach.

CSB plans to do the following to reach this goal:

  • Advocate the timely implementation of high-impact recommendations to the Congress, federal agencies, state governments, and private and non-profit entities.
  • Emphasize Board and staff advocacy of a “Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvements” program.
  • Disseminate information by producing high-quality videos and outreach products that result in improved worker protection.

Goal 3:  Preserve the public trust by maintaining and improving organizational excellence.

CSB states that it will accomplish this task by:

  • Instituting best practice planning and project management in all CSB processes.
  • Ensuring optimization of CSB’s budget and resource management by aligning action plans to strategic goals.
  • Maintaining effective human capital management by promoting development and retention of leadership, technical, and analytical competencies.
  • Supporting CSB’s mission by maintaining state-of-the-art information technology and effective administrative processes.
  • Fostering effective internal communications.

CSB’s Plan has been widely criticized as being improperly focused and overly ambitious.  Although CSB’s lack of resources (both in terms of funding and employees) are repeatedly discussed in the Strategic Plan, CSB wants to spread its reach, not only beyond what it can accomplish, but beyond its core mission and enabling legislation. CSB was created as an independent agency directed to “investigate . . . , determine and report to the public in writing the facts, conditions, and circumstances and the cause or probable cause of any accidental release resulting in a fatality, serious injury or substantial property damage.”  42 U.S.C. § 7412(r)(6)(C)(i). CSB was not created to investigate potential releases, but to investigate releases that have actually happened.

Employers made clear their frustration with CSB’s attempts to extend its reach and refusal to focus on its mission at a recent public meeting at which CSB admitted it has more than ten open investigations, many of which have been pending for 3-5 years. Commenters innsisted that CSB fulfill the mission that Congress assigned to it – investigating actual releases and sharing its findings and recommendations in a timely fashion so that employers have guidance on how to effectively prevent such incidents from taking place again in the future. 

For more information, please contact Mark Dreux, Head of the Arent Fox OSHA Group, at 202-857-6405.


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Arent Fox LLP, founded in 1942, is internationally recognized in core practice areas where business and government intersect. With more than 350 lawyers, the firm provides strategic legal counsel and multidisciplinary solutions to clients that range from Fortune 500 corporations to trade associations. The firm has offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.