BLOOMINGTON, ILL.—Richard Gearheard, president of Crop Production Services, provided the keynote opening presentation of the 2012 National Agronomic Environmental Health and Safety School at Bloomington, Ill., in the brand new Asmark Institute Agricenter on Tuesday.

Gearheard addressed what it takes to “build a safety culture.” He noted the need for the following: “access to professional advice, commitment from senior management, commitment from people at risk and knowing what good looks like.”

Access to professional advice requires taking advantage of third-party and in-house advice and resources—being open to what is improvement. Knowing what good looks like is learning from other operations or the best single operation from within a large operation such as Crop Production Services has.

Gearheard talked about CPS’s ownership in Agrium and the company’s total operations prior to focusing on the safety aspects that comes down throughout the entire Agrium company.

From Gearheard, the safety school program moved to providing insight into what has been happening in Washington, D.C.—including legislative and regulatory agency activities. Richard Gupton, vice president of legislative policy for the Agricultural Retailers Association; Sarah McLallen, executive director, CropLife Foundation of CropLife America; and Pam Guffain, vice-president, member services, The Fertilizer Institute, provided a wide assortment of information.

Gupton addressed the farm bill roadblock and the national financial crisis. McLallen talked about the “changing terms of the debate” surrounding pesticide registrations and the need for pesticides to bring in support from organizations that wouldn’t normally be seen as traditionally aligning with pesticide organizations. Guffain mainly focused on the ammonium nitrate security program (ANSP) and how 99 percent of improvised explosive devices are made from fertilizer products. She explained how the U.S. availability of nitrate fertilizers is being tied to the international discussion, which is making it harder to keep ammonium nitrate available for import to the U.S.

Greg Handke, chemical security inspector, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, followed with a detailed explanation of the current situation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS). One of his comments that struck home for the attendees was how the site security plan was probably too complicated and poorly written.

Next up was William DelBagno, chemical countermeasures unit of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who explained the vision to “eliminate the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by all adversaries.” A big focus in the U.S. has to be on “explosive precursor chemicals,” or the type of chemicals that can be bought over the counter, whether it is nitrate fertilizers, pool water cleaner chemicals or hair salon chemicals.

Shawn Lambert, risk management coordinator with the Co-Alliance Co-op in Indiana, provided his company’s experience with a federal inspection from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He noted some of the problems that can occur if the inspector is given full access without the business shutting down during an inspection.

Brian Bothast, compliance assistance specialist with the OSHA office in Illinois, also talked about the “hot topics” that are the focus of inspections. He noted the six major hazards being focused on are falls, electrocution, engulfment in grain/fertilizer, auger entanglement, combustible dust explosions and struck by equipment. Of the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA violations in Region V, two related to hazard communications are in the top three—1) general improper machine guarding, 2) lack of program hazard communications, and 3) lack or proper hazard communications training.

The day was rounded out with an explanation of the Progressive Agriculture Safety Days program, a panel explanation/discussion of how states are dealing with the National Pollutant Discharge Ellimination System (NPDES), and the Powerpoint presentation that goes along with the Purdue University printed “The ABC’s of Trailers and Hitches” was presented by its author Fred Whitford.

Whitford, Ph.D., coordinator of the Purdue Pesticide Programs, showed his ability to wake up any tired crowd at the end of a long day of meetings. He provided a large volume of comedy about serious topics whenever he takes the microphone.