Statement of Isadore Rosenthal
Nominated to be a Member of the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity and privilege to appear before you today as President Clinton's nominee to fill one of the remaining three positions on the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for scheduling this hearing on my nomination so very promptly.

I have spent 38 years in the chemical industry with Rohm and Haas, a multinational chemical company, before I retired in 1990 and joined the Wharton Risk management and Decision Processes Center to do research on low probability - high consequence chemical process accidents. Both of these experiences have made me very aware of the risks associated with the chemical processes used by industry to produce the varied products that are vital to our citizens well being and our country's economy.

Mr. Chairman, as you know, our fellow citizen's present serious concerns about potential chemical process accidents developed rather slowly. The catastrophic accidents at Foxborough (1974) and Seveso, (1976), which led the European Union to enact a major process safety law (Seveso Directive), and even the terrible disaster in Mexico City, (1984) did not generate widespread US public concerns about major chemical accidents.

This situation changed completely after the December 1984 disaster at Bhopal. Not only was the public's confidence in the chemical industry shaken; the chemical industry itself questioned whether its provisions for protection against major accidental releases were adequate. Bhopal and the subsequent disaster at the Phillips installation in Houston (1989) led to a series of initiatives by industry, labor, public interest organizations and State and Federal governments. At the Federal level, these initiatives culminated in section 112 (r) of the 1990 Clean Air act amendments which established the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board on which I hope to serve and laid the basis for the present process safety activities by OSHA and EPA.

I was very aware of these developments since they all occurred over the last part of my career in industry, when I served as the Corporate Director of Safety, Health and Environmental Affairs of Rohm and Haas. During this period, I helped establish improved process safety programs within my company and worked within the Chemical Manufacturers Association (CMA) on industry wide initiatives such as the Community Awareness and Emergency Response and the Responsible Care programs.

My activities within the company prior to 1990 and my subsequent research activities on major chemical accidents at Wharton also brought me into close contact with the excellent process safety initiatives carried out by labor unions such as OCAW and USWA, public interest groups such as the National Institute for Chemical Studies and the National Environmental Law Center, professional groups such as the Center for Chemical Process Safety of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and academic institutions such as Texas A&M and MIT.

I have had the occasion to hear the Board's Chairman, Dr. Paul Hill, informally discuss his vision for the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. I fully agree with his emphasis on organizational excellence and Board actions that contribute to accident prevention. The Board should be judged on its contributions to measurable reductions in chemical process accidents, rather than the number of accident investigations it conducts.

I also agree with Dr. Hill's observation that accident investigations per se will not lead to accident prevention unless the findings from an investigation are integrated with previous findings, translated into practical recommendations and effectively transmitted to the organizations and people who run our plants.

The Board faces a great challenge in discharging even its narrow legally mandated responsibilities with necessarily limited resources. However in the course of meeting this challenge, the Board will have the opportunity to carry out other initiatives that do not require significant resources but will significantly contribute to the prevention of chemical process accidents.

For example, consider the fact that the activities of the Board and other government agencies are only a small part of our country's overall efforts on chemical accident prevention. Industry, labor unions, public interest groups, academia, and professional societies must, and do play the major roles in this effort. However, I believe there are important voids in this overall effort. Many of these voids will be filled by the Board; most cannot.

I think that the Board has the legal and moral authority to provide leadership for a joint effort to define these voids by all organizations and agencies working on any aspect of chemical process safety. In the process of doing this, it could also be ascertained whether the participating organizations have plans for filling these voids. Where this is not the case, and as appropriate, the Board could either issue recommendations on how these needs can be best be addressed or undertake to do some of the work itself.

In summary, I believe that the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, under Dr. Hill's leadership, has made a good start towards discharging its mandate. If I am confirmed, I think that my past experience would allow me to make a significant contribution to the Board's future accomplishments. I know that I would enjoy having the opportunity to try to do so.

Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.