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PT Notes

New OSHA NEP for PSM-Covered Facilities

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

This PT Note describes the instruction contained in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) directive, PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, CPL 03-00-021. This directive replaces directive CPL 03-00-014, PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, issued November 29, 2011.


The instruction describes a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for inspecting facilities covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. The instruction provides guidance to OSHA’s national, regional, area, and State Plan offices for implementing and conducting the NEP. Inspections will take place in all OSHA regions beginning immediately.

Under previous related instructions, OSHA conducted inspections of facilities covered by OSHA’s PSM standard either through an instruction specific to petroleum refineries (CPL 03-00-010, August 18, 2009), or an instruction related to all other PSM-covered chemical facilities excluding petroleum refineries (CPL 03-00-014, November 29, 2011). This new instruction is applicable to all facilities covered by the PSM standard, including petroleum refineries. NEP inspections conducted at petroleum refineries will be conducted in the same manner as NEP inspections conducted at all other facilities covered by the instruction.

OSHA determined the need for this NEP based on enforcement data, feedback from OSHA personnel, and the continuation of a large number of significant petroleum refinery incidents in the U.S.

Historical Context

On September 13, 1994, OSHA issued instruction CPL 02-02-045 (Revised) that established policies, procedures, clarifications, and compliance guidance for enforcement of the PSM standard including Program-Quality-Verification (PQV) inspections. The instruction acknowledged that PQV inspections were resource intensive. Indeed, very few PQV inspections have been conducted since OSHA issued CPL 02-02-045.

OSHA implemented a PSM NEP for petroleum refineries in June 2007 and an update in August 2009. The refinery NEP resulted in the inspection of all eligible (i.e., non-Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)) petroleum refineries within OSHA’s Federal jurisdiction. The refinery NEP ended in 2011. OSHA identified a significant number of hazards that required abatement by employers. OSHA found that the inspection methodology specified by the refinery NEP required significant resources for each inspection conducted.

In July 2009, OSHA implemented a pilot NEP for PSM-covered chemical facilities. The pilot NEP outlined a modified approach for inspecting PSM-covered facilities that allowed for a greater number of inspections by better allocation of OSHA’s resources. The pilot proved to be effective in increasing the number of PSM facilities inspected while at the same time limiting the resources required for each inspection.

After a review of the pilot NEP, OSHA implemented the CHEM NEP in November 2011. This NEP applied to all non-VPP PSM-covered processes, except for petroleum refineries. Like the pilot, it employed an inspection methodology that better allocated resources, thereby allowing for a greater number of inspections.

OSHA has continued to find a substantial number of hazards at facilities that are inspected under the CHEM NEP. Since 2010, OSHA has issued 69 significant enforcement cases to chemical facility employers inspected under the CHEM NEP. During the same period, OSHA issued 24 significant enforcement cases to petroleum refinery employers. Petroleum refineries also have experienced numerous fatal and/or catastrophic process-related incidents since 2010.


Inspection targeting sources have been added to include the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan (EPA RMP) Program Levels 1 and 2 processes. The instruction also clarifies that targeting of explosive manufacturing includes pyrotechnic manufacturing facilities.

Both programmed and unprogrammed inspections will take place. Programmed inspections will be conducted in facilities that are known to or believed to
have a risk of catastrophic releases of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHCs). Unprogrammed inspections are scheduled in response to alleged hazardous working conditions that have been identified at a specific worksite.

Facilities will be removed from the inspection list when:

  • The facility is an approved participant in OSHA’s VPP or OSHA Consultation’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).
  • The facility has already received an inspection under the CHEM NEP in the last three years since the opening conference date of the last inspection.

However, VPP sites are not exempt from a CHEM NEP inspection that is initiated by an unprogrammed activity.

Facilities will be sorted into these categories:

  • Category 1 – Facilities with North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes likely to have ammonia used for refrigeration as the only highly hazardous chemical.
  • Category 2 – NAICS 32411 or 324110, Petroleum Refineries.
  • Category 3 – NAICS 325, Chemical Manufacturing.
  • Category 4 - NAICS codes for facilities that are likely PSM-covered but not Category 1, Category 2, or Category 3.

OSHA inspectors are required to determine if the facility to be inspected is covered by the most recent enforcement policy related to the Appropriations Act, CPL 02-00-051, which exempts employers from programmed safety inspections (i.e. CHEM NEP inspections) if:

  • They employ 10 or fewer employees currently and at all times during the last 12 months, and
  • The lost workday case rate for its primary NAICS work activity is below the all-industry national averages which are provided in Appendix A of CPL 02-00-051.

If a facility is covered by the Appropriations Rider, an inspection will not be conducted.

Inspection Process

Based on inspection history at refineries and large chemical plants, OSHA has found that employers may have an extensive written process safety management program, but insufficient program implementation. Therefore, NEP inspections will verify the implementation of PSM elements to ensure that the employer’s actual program is consistent with the written program.

NEP inspections may be conducted by either a single OSHA employee or a team. Inspectors will select one or more units for inspection.

The NEP inspection process differs from the PQV inspection process. PQV inspections were broad and open-ended, while the NEP inspections rely on specific investigative questions. The questions are designed to gather facts related to requirements of the PSM standard, and include guidance for reviewing documents, interviewing workers, and verifying full implementation.

Inspectors will use a dynamic list of questions to evaluate PSM compliance. The dynamic list-based evaluation is a gap analysis formatted in a series of questions to facilitate the evaluation of various requirements of the PSM standard. The appropriate number and type of dynamic list questions is based on the nature of the process being inspected. OSHA will periodically update the lists. OSHA will not publicly disclose the lists of questions in order to maintain the integrity of the inspection process.

Inspections may be expanded to other units or areas. Reasons for expanding an inspection include, but are not limited to:

  • PSM deficiencies exist in the employer’s PSM compliance outside the selected unit(s) or dynamic list questions.
  • Pervasive or recurring hazards are identified through the dynamic list evaluation process.

Inspections can be expanded only after consultation with and at the discretion of the OSHA Area Director. OSHA inspectors may address obvious, plain view, or other hazardous conditions that are not part of the dynamic lists questions without requesting an expansion of the inspection.

During the course of the inspection, OSHA inspectors will review abatement for all PSM citations issued within the previous six years to determine whether the hazard still exists. If a hazard exists, inspectors will determine whether there has been a failure to abate and issue a notice for failure to abate, as appropriate.

Unit Selection

More than one unit may be selected to get a representative sample of the facility’s covered processes based on its size and complexity. For large, continuous processes, a portion of the covered process may be selected, for example, a unit operation within the covered process.

If a facility has more than one PSM-covered process or process unit, then the selected unit should be different than a selected unit from a prior CHEM NEP inspection. If all the PSM-covered processes or process units have been selected during previous CHEM NEP inspections, then an inspection on a previously inspected selected unit will be initiated. However, if in the opinion of the lead inspector, in lieu of inspecting low risk processes that have yet to be inspected under the CHEM NEP, other higher risk covered process(es) that have previously been inspected may be selected. The following criteria will be used in determining higher risk covered processes:

  • Nature and quantity of chemicals involved (e.g., risk of releasing flammables, high toxicity substances present, high operating pressures and temperatures).
  • Incident investigation reports, near-miss investigation reports, emergency shutdown records, and other history.
  • Lead operator’s input.
  • Age of the process unit.
  • Factors observed during a walkaround.
  • Worker representative input.
  • Number of workers present.
  • Current hot work; equipment replacement; inspection, test and repair records; or other maintenance activities.
  • Compliance audit records, including open and pending items.
  • List of contractors.

These criteria are intended to be used as a guide by OSHA inspectors. The lead inspector can use discretion in choosing the selected unit.


OSHA inspectors may recommend citations for hazardous conditions or violations of OSHA standards or the General Duty Clause found during the inspection, regardless of whether they are specifically addressed by CPL 03-00-021.

The directive can be found at:

PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program, CPL 03-00-021.

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