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PT Notes

OSHA RFI - Coverage of the Storage of Flammables in Atmospheric Tanks

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On December 3, 2013, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a request for information (RFI) seeking public comment on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. Multiple issues were addressed in the RFI.

One issue deals with a 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. Paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of the PSM standard applies to processes involving a flammable liquid or gas on site in one location in a quantity of 10,000 pounds or more. However, paragraph (a)(1)(ii)(B) contains an exemption for flammable liquids stored in atmospheric tanks or transferred which are kept below their normal boiling point without benefit of chilling or refrigeration.

During initial enforcement of the PSM standard, OSHA took the position that flammables stored in atmospheric tanks connected to, or in close proximity to, a process covered by the PSM standard were part of the covered process and not exempt from coverage. However, in a 1997 lawsuit an administrative law judge ruled that PSM coverage does not extend to flammables stored in atmospheric tanks, even if the tanks are connected to a process (the so-called Meer decision). As a result, employers were able to exclude the amount of flammable liquid contained in an atmospheric storage tank, or in transfer lines, from the quantity contained in the process when determining whether a process meets the 10,000-pound threshold quantity. Thus, the Meer decision was contrary to OSHA's earlier interpretation.

OSHA believes that revising the PSM standard to include flammable liquids in atmospheric storage tanks within or connected to a PSM-covered process would improve the safety of workers. OSHA has posed these questions for employers in the RFI:

  1. If your facility has atmospheric storage tanks that are exempt from PSM coverage, what facts led you to conclude that the exemption applies, and do you treat the exempted tanks as if they were PSM-covered for safety or other reasons?
  2. Would limiting the exemption to apply only to flammable liquids stored in terminals and tank farms prevent worker injuries and fatalities?
  3. Should OSHA limit the exemption to apply only to specific NAICS codes? If so, which NAICS codes should OSHA exempt?
  4. Should the exemption apply only to "storage tanks," such that "process tanks" are explicitly covered under PSM? If so, how should OSHA define the terms "storage tanks" and "process tanks"?
  5. Are there any other options related to the exemption of flammable liquids stored in atmospheric tanks that OSHA should consider to prevent worker injuries and fatalities?

With regard to limiting the exemptions, OSHA has asked for information on the economic impacts and whether there are any special circumstances involving small entities that OSHA should consider. Also, OSHA has asked for employers to provide any data or information on workplace accidents, near misses, or other safety-related incidents related to flammable liquids stored in atmospheric tanks exempted from PSM coverage.

For more information, you can contact Primatech or check this link:

Federal Register notice

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