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New Process Safely Management Subject Division Will Be a Challenqe.

The PSM Subject Division has the potential for great importance to the chemical industry and the Canadian public, but we should look again at the lessons MIACC taught us.

In the October 2000 issue of ACCN, Murray Cray, FCIC CSChE President, wrote about the formation of the new Process Safety Management (PSM) Subject Division of the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering (CSChE). I fully intend to belong to this new Division and to participate actively. The CSChE has drafted the necessary constitution and bylaws containing the standard provisions for a Subject Division, which is fine if one considers PSM to be a Subject Division like any other. However, PSM is not; and there are implications for the success of the Subject Division, as well as for the credibility of the Institute and its Societies.

No doubt many readers are aware of the Major Industrial Accidents Council of Canada (MIACC), which dissolved in December of 1999. If you have visited their website since then, you would have seen the following announcement: "The members of MIACC voted at the 1999 Annual General Meeting to dissolve the organization. As part of that process, the intellectual property of MIACC was offered for sale through a request for proposal process."

Process safety management was an important educational initiative of MIACC. Essentially, the CSChE is conducting a (very worthwhile and in the interest of both the public and the CIC) rescue mission in taking stewardship of PSM in the aftermath of the MIACC dissolution.

What was MIACC? MIACC was established in 1987 as part of Canada's response to the Bhopal, India chemical accident that caused 4,200 fatalities and injured thousands more. As the MIACC website states, "The Major Industrial Accidents Council of Canada was a not-for-profit organization that brought together in one neutral forum all those with a vested interest in prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) relating to major accidents involving hazardous substances." MIACC was a voluntary initiative that was widely viewed as a success and touted as such around the globe. "MIACC was structured as an independent, not-for-profit, stakeholder driven, non-governmental organization," the site reads, "working through a consultative and consensus process, operating under a multi-stakeholder Board of Directors elected from the membership." The stakeholders included federal, provincial and municipal governments; industry and industry associations; emergency response organizations; labour; academia; and other interested gro ups.

Why did MIACC collapse? It is my personal opinion that many factors caused its demise including the failure of key stakeholders to live up to their voluntary commitments as well as budgetary challenges that resulted in a vote in November 1999 to dissolve MIACC. It must also be said that the federal government representatives on the Board abstained from the critical vote to dissolve MIACC based on questionable advice from government lawyers.

What are the consequences of MIACC's dissolution? While the intellectual property of MIACC was divested to other organizations such as the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and CSChE, a great deal of accumulated information important to public safety and largely paid for by Canadian taxpayers has been lost. Unfortunately, the credibility of all voluntary initiatives has been severely undermined by the MIACC experience.

By taking stewardship of PSM, the Institute has taken on an activity that has a product of importance not only to the chemical industry but to the Canadian public. The PSM Subject Division has the potential to evolve to an even greater importance, given the current reluctance of the federal government to regulate in this area.

MIACC was governed by a multi-stakeholder board. Despite how things evolved near the end, the reasoning was sound from the point-of-view of openness, transparency, verifiability, accountability, and above all, credibility.

Part of the proposed goals of the CSChE PSM Division include: "3) To further the advancement of and development of new PSM ideas, theorems, tools, services and techniques; 4) To foster PSM in chemical and related engineering and science education; 5) To monitor the degree of implementation of PSM to identify gaps in knowledge or application and to facilitate and encourage appropriate corrective action."

Some of this can be accomplished by chemical professionals acting in their professional and expert capacity. However, some of this requires public transparency and accountability.

A homogeneous board of chemical professionals may be a problem if we want PSM to have the kind of credibility with the public that MIACC was supposed to have. Perhaps two or three executive committee member positions should be reserved for representatives of industry, NGOs, and governments. The Society would still retain effective control, yet the Division would have the benefit of other points of view in accomplishing the goals listed. An alternative would be to construct some other method of reaching out to non-Society or Institute members, e.g. an external "advisory board".

Taking on PSM as a Subject Division is the right thing to do. However, making sure that the Society and the Institute get the frill benefit and credit for the work involved in accepting "stewardship" of PSM means making sure that PSM is, and is seen to be, fully acceptable and accepted by the Canadian industry and the Canadian public.

Brian Kohler, cCT, MCIC, is the Vice-President for the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology. He is the national representative on health, safety and environment for the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. He is on the Executive Committee of the new CSChE PSM Division.
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Author:Kohler, Brian
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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