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PT Notes

OSHA RFI - Revisions to the PSM Standard - OSHA's Request for Information

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

This PT Note provides an overview of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and other standards. OSHA will use comments to determine what action, if any, it may take. The RFI was issued on December 3, 2013, and written comments are due by March 10, 2014.

OSHA has been motivated to take this action by the continued occurrence of major incidents since the PSM standard was enacted in 1992, and by recommendations from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. These incidents include:

  • April 23, 2004, explosion and fire at Formosa Plastics in Illiopolis, Illinois.
  • March 23, 2005, explosion and fire at the BP Refinery in Texas City, Texas.
  • April 2, 2010, explosion and fire at the Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington.
  • April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate explosion at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility in West, Texas.

The RFI addresses seventeen issues. Three issues address coverage of facilities under the standard:

  • Clarification that the PSM standard covers all stored flammables when connected to, or in close proximity to, a process, including those in atmospheric storage tanks.
  • Possibly removing from PSM coverage the current exemption for oil well and gas well drilling and servicing operations.
  • Possibly resuming enforcement for PSM covered oil production and gas production facilities, namely well operations that deal with bringing well fluids to the surface, separating them, and then storing, gauging and otherwise preparing the product for the pipeline. The PSM-covered process begins at the top of the well. The distance between separation equipment and the well is not a factor when determining PSM applicability for production facilities.

Three issues address coverage of chemicals under the standard:

  • A number of the chemicals listed in Appendix A of the PSM standard are highly reactive but the list does not cover all highly reactive chemicals nor reactive mixtures. OSHA is considering an approach similar to that used in the New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) which specifies a list of individual reactive hazardous substances and a list of reactive hazard substances mixture functional groups which have been associated with high reactivity. Also, OSHA is seeking comments on alternative approaches.
  • Appendix A of the PSM standard provides a list of 137 highly hazardous chemicals that present a potential for a catastrophic event at or above a specified threshold quantity. The list has remained unchanged since the PSM standard was issued in 1992. OSHA is requesting comments on which chemicals, if any, should be added to the list. Also, OSHA is seeking comments on methods for periodically updating the list when new hazards are discovered and as technology and advancements in chemical science evolve.
  • Although Appendix A provides specific concentrations for 11 of its listed chemicals, the standard is silent on concentrations for the remaining 126 listed chemicals. For example, Appendix A lists hydrogen peroxide at concentrations of 52% by weight or greater, but the appendix does not provide a specific concentration for hydroxylamine. OSHA believes it is important to issue a clear and authoritative statement about PSM coverage of chemicals for which Appendix A does not include a specific concentration. 

OSHA is seeking comments on whether it should adopt the EPA's policy for RMP listed substances as a simpler and more practical approach to addressing hazards associated with Appendix A chemicals that do not have listed concentrations. If adopted, OSHA would consider a PSM listed chemical in a mixture to be covered if the concentration of the chemical were greater than one percent and the calculated weight of the chemical in the mixture were greater than the threshold quantity. OSHA believes this represents a more practical, consistent, and straightforward approach to coverage of Appendix A chemicals under the PSM standard.

One issue addresses revising the PSM standard to require additional management system elements as practices have evolved since the PSM standard was issued in 1992. OSHA is seeking comments on any suggested additional management system elements, or on expanding existing elements. Possible additions identified by OSHA are:

  • Measurement and metrics to to track the effectiveness of the management system.
  • Management review and continuous improvement.
  • Process safety competency.
  • A stop work authority that creates procedures and authorizes personnel who witness an imminent risk or dangerous activity to stop work.
  • An ultimate work authority that requires employers to clearly define who has the ultimate work authority on a facility for operational safety and decision making at any given time.
  • An employee participation plan that provides an environment that promotes participation by employees as well as their management to eliminate or mitigate safety hazards.

Three issues address aspects of mechanical integrity (MI):

  • The PSM standard requires employers to document that covered equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP). However, the PSM standard does not require employers to evaluate updates to applicable RAGAGEP or to examine new RAGAGEP after evaluating and documenting compliance with the MI requirements of the standard. OSHA is seeking comments on the best approach to require to evaluate updates to applicable RAGAGEP.
  • The PSM standard does not define the term RAGAGEP. OSHA quotes a Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) definition:
    • Recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEPs) are the basis for engineering, operation, or maintenance activities, and are themselves based on established codes, standards, published technical reports, or recommended practices (RPs), or similar documents. RAGAGEPs detail generally approved ways to perform specific engineering, inspection, or mechanical integrity activities, such as fabricating a vessel, inspecting a storage tank, or servicing a relief valve.
  • OSHA is seeking comments on whether an explicit definition of RAGAGEP should be provided in the standard, and, if so, what definition should be used.
  • The MI requirements of the PSM standard specifically apply to: pressure vessels and storage tanks; piping systems (including piping components such as valves); relief and vent systems and devices; emergency shutdown systems; controls (including monitoring devices and sensors, alarms, and interlocks); and pumps. However, the preamble to the standard addresses the inclusion of other types of critical equipment by employers. In light of the limited list of covered equipment, OSHA is seeking comments on whether the PSM standard should specify that the MI integrity requirements should apply to all equipment the employer identifies as safety-critical equipment.

One issue addresses management of change (MOC):

  • The PSM standard requires that employers establish and implement written procedures to manage change for certain defined types of process changes. However, the existing standard does not explicitly state that employers must follow MOC procedures for organizational changes, such as changes in management structure, budget cuts, or personnel changes. OSHA's position is that the current standard covers organizational changes if the changes have the potential to affect process safety. OSHA is seeking comments on whether the standard should be clarified with an explicit requirement that employers must manage organizational changes.

One issue addresses emergency planning and response:

  • The PSM standard requires employers to establish and implement an emergency action plan in accordance with other OSHA standards. However, the standard does not require employers to coordinate emergency planning with local emergency response authorities. OSHA believes that, when emergency responders and other workers do not have adequate information or employer coordination about hazardous chemicals in a facility, they are at elevated risk of death and serious injury. Thus, OSHA believes that revising the standard to require facilities to coordinate emergency planning with local emergency response authorities could help prevent or mitigate impacts of accidents by allowing first responders to develop the appropriate strategies in advance of their arrival at a facility. OSHA is seeking comments on the appropriate mechanism and corresponding language to incorporate such coordination requirements into the standard.

One issue addresses compliance audits:

  •  The PSM standard requires employers to audit the PSM program in their facilities for compliance every three years. The standard requires that audits be conducted by at least one person knowledgeable in the process. However, there is no requirement to use a third party. However, CCPS has stated that third party auditors potentially provide the highest degree of objectivity. OSHA is seeking comments on whether the standard should be revised to require employers to use a qualified third party for compliance audits.
  • Also, OSHA is seeking comments on increasing the required frequency of compliance audits.
  • In addition, OSHA is seeking comments on requiring specific time frames for responding to deficiencies found in the compliance audit process.

One issue addresses the Occupational Safety and Health Standard, 1910.109, Explosives and Blasting Agents:

  •  The standard applies to the manufacture, keeping, having, storage, sale, transportation, and use of explosives, blasting agents, and pyrotechnics but it does not apply to the sale and use of fireworks or the use of explosives in the form prescribed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia. Although dismantling and disposing of explosives can be just as hazardous as the covered activities, these activities are not covered by the standard. OSHA believes that expanding the scope of the standard to cover dismantling and disposal of explosives, blasting agents, and pyrotechnics in the workplace would help prevent accidents. OSHA is seeking comments on this expansion in scope and whether current regulations from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would make any revisions to OSHA's regulations duplicative.

One issue addresses OSHA's Flammable Liquids and Spray Finishing standards:

  •  OSHA is considering updating these standards. OSHA first published the standards in 1974 and based the requirements on NFPA consensus standards from the 1960s. The format and requirements of the standards are significantly out of date, and need updating based on the latest applicable consensus standards. OSHA is seeking recommendations on updates that should be considered and comments on how such updates will lead to increased worker protection.

One issue addresses the hazards of ammonium nitrate:

  •  OSHA is seeking comments on safe work practices for storing, handling, and managing ammonium nitrate. Also, OSHA is seeking comments on how to update its regulatory requirements to improve its approach to preventing the hazards associated with ammonium nitrate.

One issue addresses exemption of retail facilities:

  •  The PSM standard contains an exemption from coverage for retail facilities. Although the term retail facility is not defined in the standard, the preamble to the standard noted that chemicals in retail facilities are generally in small packages, containers, and allotments, and gives the example of gasoline stations as a type of facility that typically would qualify for the exemption. OSHA is seeking comments on what the exemption should cover and whether OSHA's current enforcement policy adequately addresses workplace hazards associated with these facilities.

OSHA has provided specific questions on these issues in the RFI to collect data, information, and comments on the options discussed. For more information, you can contact Primatech or check these links:

OSHA news release

Federal Register notice

Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security

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