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OSHA's clarifies the role of the Incident Commander and other responders
This week I had the not so favorable job of critiquing an emergency incident that went from bad to horrific for the responders. This incident has known gone to the state OSHA and the civil attorneys and can only get worse! If only the facility had taken the time to get someone trained in ICS and trained their emergency personnel on the ICS, as well as what they could do and not do in the event of an emergency. Just because you do not have trained HAZMAT Technicians does not mean you do not "respond" to incidents; so please do not take the stance that ..."if I don't train anyone to HAZWOPER then the standard is not applicable to me". I share with you the very latest Letter of Interpretation from OSHA regarding the role of the IC and other responders in an industrial incident. I have cut out all the chit-chat and just posted the Q&A that has some meat to it. You can view the entire 2/14/04 letter here. By the way, the letter was written for a business that has many small ammonia refrigeration systems at different locations. I know a lot of you have similar situations dealing with ammonia.
Q. Do process operators have to act under the control of an IC? Yes; The IC must be notified expeditiously by a predetermined chain of communication. The chain of communication needs to be clearly defined in the facility emergency response plan (ERP) in the event of a release that would require an emergency response. Informing the Incident Command System (ICS) in effect places the process operators under the control of an IC. Process operators who inform the ICS of an emergency prior to performing any limited action in the danger area (e.g., shutting down processes, closing emergency valves, etc.) are limited to their responsibilities and current training levels.
Q. Does the IC have to be physically present before defensive response steps can be taken? The IC is not required to be present for the process operators to take limited actions (e.g., shutting down processes, closing emergency valves, etc.). The action taken by the process operators assumes the emergency response team's arrival is imminent, and the action taken is necessary to prevent the incident from increasing in severity. In addition, the ICs should not be at or near the release area, which would allow them to perform their duties without becoming too closely involved in the response effort.
Q. Can defensive action begin if the IC's presence is imminent? Yes; Process operators may begin limited actions (e.g., shutting down processes, closing emergency valves, etc.) prior to the IC's presence at the scene.
Q. Can the IC be a trained person from the facility, or must they be from the outside agency who will command the technician level responders? ICs may be from the facility, provided they have had appropriate training in accordance with 1910.120(q)(6)(v). Control over the incident may be passed up the chain of command as more senior officials arrive or to someone from outside the facility (e.g., fire chief). In those circumstances where the facility IC relinquishes command to an outside IC, the lines of authority must be clearly defined and procedures delineated in the facility's ERP. Also, the facility must ensure, prior to any emergency response operation, that the outside IC will accept the responsibility.
Q. Can refrigeration process operators act in accordance with the CPL in Scenario A, even though they are trained as operations level responders? Yes. Process operators may perform duties within the scope of their responsibilities and training, even though they may also be trained to the first responder operations level. However, if the process operator takes action beyond that for which they are trained, and the action is comparable to the active role that a hazardous materials technician (offensive action within the hot zone or danger area) would take, such action would be a training violation under 1910.120(q)(6)(iii).
Q. Are all operations level responders required to have training on their functions within an ICS? Yes. All first responder operations level and above trained workers must function within the facility ICS.
Q. Are all operations level responders required to be trained to the IC level based on the criteria of 1910.120(q)(6)(v)? No. First responder operations level workers are not required to be trained to the level of an IC. If the worker's duties are expanded to include the functions and responsibilities of an IC, then the training requirements in 1910.120(q)(6)(v) must be provided to the worker. Next week we do a Q&A on what EPA expects to see in regards to an "emergency coordinators" at a facility covered by RCRA.
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