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Leading the Way: RFA’s Commitment to Safety

December 2, 2013

           

The Renewable Fuels Association's (RFA) dedication to health and safety begins with the positive benefits of ethanol production in our rural communities and continues all the way through to the reduced tailpipe emissions from every vehicle in America operating on ethanol-blended fuel. Importantly, ethanol, to be used as a motor fuel, must be flammable, which means safety must be a top priority in all aspects of production, transportation and handling. RFA has developed premier resources covering numerous aspects of ethanol and safety; these resources are published for everyone to use and free of charge. But for now, let's just focus on one area important to the industry: rail transport of ethanol. We have been watching with a careful eye – rightly so in some aspects – the crude oil train derailment in Quebec; what a horrible accident. Ethanol's rail transport safety record tallies 99.99% of shipments arriving safely every day. Ethanol is less hazardous and less toxic to humans and the environment, and ethanol incident impacts on the environment are markedly less damaging. In fact, in most cases ethanol is left to biodegrade in water and soil naturally. Some of the best work we do at RFA is focused on safety. We put a constant emphasis on improving the safety of ethanol rail transport. Our current efforts include:
  • RFA is the guiding force behind the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition, a voluntary industry/ government group developing safety and emergency response information for the first response community specifically focused on ethanol incident training. We support the www.EthanolResponse.com website as the holy grail of ethanol safety and emergency information.
  • RFA is a national sponsor of TRANSCAER; TRANSCAER stands for Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response. This is a voluntary national group that assists communities to prepare for and to respond to a possible hazardous material incident. We, as a hazardous material community, come together to build resources for communities that have hazmat transportation. We partner with industries such as Class I Railroads, Trucking Companies and other hazardous material manufacturers. This group is widely successful in offering FREE training and other educational resources. TRANSCAER's website is: http://www.transcaer.com/
  • RFA has been successful at securing government grants to further our work; we have received three major grants which helped us hold Ethanol Safety Seminars all over the U.S. Special thanks goes out to the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Transportation.
  • RFA has also received a grant from DOT to develop safety information regarding the proper securement of the DOT 111A style railcar, the most common classification of railcar used for ethanol transport. RFA's effort culminated in the creation of "Guidelines for Hinged and Bolted Manway Assembly." Industry experts from Watco Industries, VSP Technologies and Salco Products were essential for this guide. The manway guide lead to additional training and educational resources for ethanol shippers. This information has been consolidated into a Poster and Brochure to provide visual training support.
RFA's Plant and Employee Safety Committee also focuses on safe rail transport, sharing best practices and technical information leading to constant safety improvements. RFA also participates in the Association of American Railroad's Tank Car Committee and many government led efforts on hazmat, rail transport. RFA's resources are available to anyone interested; just email [email protected]! For almost 20 years, I have been involved in the manufacturing, shipping and use of ethanol as a motor fuel. When I reflect on my experiences in those two decades, the most important work that I have done has involved employee and product safety. In the 1990s, I was an environmental health and safety engineer at a manufacturing site. Today, I co-chair the Ethanol Emergency Response Coalition. What a rewarding career path!