Fertilizer industry is serious about safety

By Gary Joiner

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is in Waco. It’s hosting a public meeting to outline its report on the explosion of a fertilizer plant in West in 2013. The explosion obliterated the facility, killed 15 people and caused widespread damage to more than 150 nearby buildings. The event sent major shockwaves through the Texas farm and ranch community.

The report says federal agencies need to tighten their standards for ammonium nitrate. OSHA and EPA must do a better job, the board believes.

Who’s already doing a better job is the industry itself, those who handle and store fertilizer products. An organization called ResponsibleAg is helping.

It is assisting agribusinesses, many here in Texas, as they seek to comply with federal environmental, health, safety and security rules. It provides participating businesses a federal regulatory compliance audit relating to the safe storage and handling of fertilizers. ResponsibleAg recommends corrective action where needed. And it provides a robust suite of resources.

Any business that stores or handles fertilizer products is eligible to participate in the ResponsibleAg Certification Program. The initial focus of the program is on companies that store and handle ammonium nitrate fertilizer and/or anhydrous ammonia fertilizer. There are many. Approximately 3,000 of them in the U.S.

The fertilizer industry is serious about safety. The audit checklist contains more than 320 questions. It’s a high bar, and it’s not easy to clear. But each participating business knows its importance.

Lessons and report findings learned from the tragic explosion in West must never be forgotten. They must be embraced as motivation for better practices. The fertilizer industry is moving forward, with a heavy heart, and with the help of groups like ResponsibleAg.

Gary Joiner

Gary Joiner is the senior associate director of Public Relations for Texas Farm Bureau.

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