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Security in an Insecure World: Life After September 11

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were tragic, horrifying, bewildering and, ultimately, sobering. The terrorist attacks have focused our attention as never before on identifying and managing the risks presented by modern life. Members of the converting industry are no strangers to assessing and managing risks.

For example, members of the flexible packaging industry worked with customers and other packaging producers to develop packaging solutions that are still in use today to maintain product integrity and prevent product tampering. This was in response to criminal acts of tampering that involved the deliberate introduction of a poison into Tylenol® in 1982.

One longstanding focus of converting industry risk-management attention has involved the migration into foods of chemicals, additives, adhesives, or colorants that may comprise or be used in an item of flexible packaging.

The converting industry also has grappled with traditional workplace and plant safety issues, including ways to protect both workers and members of the community from exposure to certain chemicals or other hazards, and more recently, how to protect employees from the episodic violence that occasionally has marred US workplaces.

Now, however, the notion of risk has taken on a frightening new dimension. Governmental authorities, industry groups, and citizens are assessing vulnerabilities and appropriate responses to biological, chemical, or cyber terrorist attacks. The transportation industry is beefing up security, paying special attention to the transport of hazardous materials of all descriptions that travel through our nations railways, waterways, airways, and highways.

Anticipation, preparedness, and reasonable security measures are, of course, central to managing these sorts of risk. But in the face of overwhelming disaster, what is the government doing about the broader security questions? What are companies doing to protect themselves? And what is the role of the flexible packaging industry?

In the wake of the attacks, the Dept. of Transportation began evaluating security on all modes of transportation, not just airlines. DOT took action to control the movement of all vessels in the navigable waters of the US under the Ports and Waterway Safety Act. Pipeline operators were put under alert. Key bridges and tunnels are being monitored. Holders of commercial drivers licenses were detained for possible suspicious activity, and new restrictions, such as background checks, are under consideration.

Companies across the country are reevaluating transportation and storage options for hazardous materials. They are reviewing crisis management plans, emergency preparedness and response, as well as scheduling employee training programs. Environmental, health, and safety professionals are taking a second look at worst-case scenarios. Community impact assessments are being updated. Plant security is a priority, with tightened requirements for access to restricted areas, even by employees, and consideration of new surveillance techniques, both inside and outside facilities, to detect intruders and problems. And, despite the movement by labor unions and privacy advocates to protect employee privacy, stepped-up employee monitoring is being considered.

The repercussions of September 11 will ripple through the country for years. The renewed focus on terrorist attacks inevitably leads us back to a longstanding commitment of the converting industry: innovations to assure the continuing safety of our packaged consumer products. Our foods, medicines, cosmetics, and a host of other products are safer for the initiatives of the packaging industry. As they did in response to the Tylenol tampering, the converting industry will continue to lead in offering customers around the world effective tools for maintaining the safety of consumer products, as they continue to manage their plants and operations to assure the safety of their employees and those around them.

Sheila A. Millar, a partner with Keller and Heckman LLP, counsels both corporate and association clients. Contact her at 202/434-4143; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; web site:

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