Government Report Finds Fault with Chemical Safety Board

By Laura Spadanuta

The Government Accountability Office has released a report on the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).  The report recommends that CSB address management and oversight issues, and it recommends that Congress take up some of the problems, including designating an oversight office.

One major finding is that the CSB does not investigate all chemical accidents that "meet statutory requirements triggering CSB's responsibility to investigate."  GAO included in the report the response from CSB, which disagreed and stated that it does not construe the law as requiring it to investigate all accidents that result in fatalities, serious injuries, property damage (or incidents that have the "potential for such consequences").  The GAO report states that CSB is investigating far fewer accidents than is required by law, constituting an "investigative gap."  However, CSB did agree to work with Congress to clarify that statutory mandate.

GAO also recommends that the Inspector General at the Environmental Protection Agency provide the oversight for the CSB; CSB disagreed with this recommendation as well and felt that GAO did not  "adequately" consider alternative oversight options.

Some additional recommendations made in the report: CSB should improve the quality of its accident-screening database by improving data quality and taking random data samples to ensure quality, publish a regulation to require chemical facilities to report all chemical accidents, and consider reinstating a chief operating officer.



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