CHEMICAL SAFETY AND SECURITY
Across New Jersey, hundreds of facilities use or store hazardous substances capable of harming worker and community health and the environment. A routine accident or a deliberate terrorist attack on one of these facilities could endanger both workers and communities. In some areas, millions of people could be placed at risk. For example, a worst-case toxic release from the potentially most hazardous facility in our state, in Hudson County, could harm an estimated 12 million people in New Jersey and New York City.
WEC’s Chemical Safety and Security Program works with labor unions, environmental and community organizations, and public officials to ensure that facilities are safe and secure.
Because of WEC’s organizing, coalition-building, and advocacy, New Jersey has the strongest chemical safety and security policies in the nation.
Unfortunately, communities near potentially dangerous facilities remain largely unaware about the potential risks of a toxic release. Plant neighbors have the right to know about routine releases and the potential for a toxic disaster that could affect their families and the environment. Communities should also have the right to address these issues with the companies operating in their hometown. If a toxic release should occur, they need to know what specific steps to take. WEC’s Safety and Security First! Campaign is working to protect workers’ and communities’ right to know and act about potential exposures in their workplaces, communities, and environment.
Moreover, WEC believes that a more comprehensive approach of applying principles of “green chemistry” can greatly reduce the risk of toxic exposures. As the campaign moves forward, WEC will look at how green chemistry policies can benefit New Jersey workers, communitites, and the environment.
New Jersey is the first state to require facilities using extraordinarily hazardous substances to conduct an Inherently Safer Technolgy review of their options for adopting safer chemicals or processes and to explain their reasons if they choose not to.
Over a million people have been protected as the Schweitzer-Maduit plant in Spotswood, NJ switched from bringing in railroad cars of chlorine gas to a much safer chlorine dioxide process after pressure from the United Steelworkers and the community.Union members participated in WEC’s 2006 Train-the-Trainer program using the Steelworkers/Labor Institute curriculum on “Chemical Security through Prevention”.
Workers and their unions help keep facilities safe and secure. Two NJ Department of Environmental Protection administrative orders allow workers at more than 300 industrial facilities to accompany inspectors to help point out potential hazards at their facility.
Because of a victory won with the United Steelworkers, NJ requires about 150 chemical plants employing more than 30,000 workers to train worker-trainers and their entire workforce about chemical safety and security. The core curriculum covers, in part, mapping risks to workers and surrounding communities and underlying systems of safety. This training requirement is the first by any state. The NJ AFL-CIO implements this program.
WEC helped New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg block the Bush Administration and the chemical industry from preempting state chemical security laws. New Jersey and other states are now free to adopt and enforce rules concerning inherently safer technology, worker participation, and other measures. The “Lautenberg language” was included in an omnibus appropriations bill.
Underlying the successes of WEC’s Safety and Security First! campaign was a grassroots effort engaging labor, community, and environmental organizations using a variety of tactics. More than 9,000 New Jerseyans signed postcards to Governor Jon Corzine seeking action; more than 100 distinct print, TV, and radio stories featured this campaign.