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Chemical Safety: Putting Hard Lessons to the Test

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Scott Jensen
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When it comes to restoring the trust of neighbors after an accident at a chemical facility, applying the hard lessons that result from an incident can make all the difference when it comes to improving safety and repairing relationships.

Following a series of major industrial incidents at chemical facilities along the Houston Ship Channel, ACC and its member companies brought together a group safety professionals to examine what happened and what actions industry could take to prevent or respond to future incidents. The group was following through on a commitment embodied in ACC’s Responsible Care® program, which calls on member companies to evaluate the circumstances of each incident and learn from them.

As a result of the group’s work, ACC joined with Harris County officials and the Houston Advance Research Center (HARC) to collaborate on a ground breaking initiative to enhance the county’s air monitoring capabilities. The initiative was made possible by a $1 million grant from the ACC Foundation to purchase more than 60 new air monitors and support the development of new scientific tools for interpreting air quality data during an emergency.

The first of its kind initiative was recently put to the test this week during a major fire at a chemical distribution facility in Channelview, TX. The new air monitoring equipment collected information throughout the incident, boosting officials’ ability to make important safety decisions and keep the public informed.

As Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia pointed out during remarks at a news conference from the scene of the accident, the new air monitoring resources helped improve the county’s ability to respond to the incident. Importantly, the equipment also helped Harris County officials keep tabs on air quality when chemical facilities were forced to shut down rapidly during Winter Storm Uri.

ACC hopes to continue to build on this early success in Texas and we are exploring ways we might be able to develop similar air monitoring initiatives in chemical manufacturing hubs in other parts of the country—putting lessons learned to work!

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About the author

Anne Womack Kolton serves as the Executive Vice President of the American Chemistry Council, leading Communications, Sustainability and Market Outreach for the chemical industry. Anne is responsible for the development and execution of domestic and international strategies to advance industry’s advocacy priorities, sustainability practices, marketplace relationships with manufacturers and retailers, as well as environmental, health, safety and security performance through oversight of Responsible Care®, the industry’s signature EH&S program.

In this capacity, Anne manages marketplace, policymaker, stakeholder, and industry interests to develop collaborative programs to support sustainability progress. Recently, Anne led the development of the first–ever chemical industry sustainability metrics, which measure and report the U.S. chemical industry’s sustainability performance. Through these responsibilities, Anne is helping the chemical industry demonstrate its commitment and contributions to overcoming society’s environmental, social, and economic sustainability challenges now and in the future.

Anne joined ACC in 2010 after serving in two global public affairs consulting firms where she provided strategic communications and government relations counsel to a range of clients, primarily from the energy and financial services sectors. During the administration of President George W. Bush, Anne led communications for the United States Department of Energy, served at the United States Department of the Treasury and Securities and Exchange Commission and as Assistant Press Secretary in the White House Press Office. Anne began her career working in Texas and Presidential politics.

American Chemistry Council

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®; common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues; and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $486 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is among the largest exporters in the nation, accounting for ten percent of all U.S. goods exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

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