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PT Notes

OSHA RFI - Coverage and Requirements for Reactive Hazards

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

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 expanding PSM coverage and requirements for reactivity hazards. Appendix A of the PSM standard lists highly hazardous chemicals covered by the standard. A number of the listed chemicals are highly reactive but the list does not cover all highly reactive chemicals. In 2000, OSHA added an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for reactive chemicals to its regulatory agenda but the item was removed from the agenda in 2002 and no further action was taken. In a 2002 report, the CSB made a number of recommendations to OSHA on how the PSM standard could be amended to control reactive hazards more comprehensively. OSHA is now seeking public comment on how reactive chemicals should be addressed in revisions to the PSM standard.

One approach to regulating reactive hazards is the New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) which was enacted in 1986. The TCPA contains many process safety elements similar to the PSM standard, but it differs from PSM by explicitly covering reactive hazards, including reactive mixtures. Unlike the PSM standard, which contains only one list of covered hazardous chemicals in Appendix A, the TCPA contains multiple lists. This includes the List of Individual Reactive Hazardous Substances, as well as a list of Reactive Hazard Substances Mixture Functional Groups. These functional groups include certain molecular structures that have been identified as highly reactive based on scientific research and accident history. Under the TCPA, covered facilities must determine if any of the chemicals they are intentionally mixing include components on the Functional Groups list. If so, then the facility must determine the heat of reaction and the corresponding threshold quantity for TCPA coverage. This approach takes into account not only certain specific chemicals but also their overall reactivity in determining the level of coverage.

OSHA is inviting comments on different regulatory approaches to covering reactive hazards, including the approach used in the TCPA.

OSHA has posed these questions for employers on this issue in the RFI:

  1. What are the best criteria to use in classifying reactive hazards? What do you consider to be a reactive chemical? What do you consider to be a reactive mixture?
  2. Do you consider some reactive hazards to be outside coverage of the existing PSM standard? If so, what are they?
  3. Should OSHA add reactive chemicals to the list of PSM-covered chemicals in Appendix A of the PSM standard? If so, which reactive chemicals?
  4. If your facility is in New Jersey and covered by the New Jersey TCPA, has the TCPA been effective in protecting New Jersey workers from reactive hazards? Please describe any economic impacts associated with TCPA coverage (e.g., costs and benefits, cost savings, shifts in usage of reactive chemicals, special circumstances involving small entities, etc.).
  5. Should OSHA revise the PSM standard to use chemical functional groups similar to those in the TCPA to define hazardous reactive mixtures? If so, which chemical functional groups should OSHA use?
  6. Does your facility follow NFPA 400 for reactive hazards? If so, please describe the economic impacts associated with following NFPA 400 (e.g., cost of additional equipment, cost of additional training, benefits of quality management, special circumstances involving small entities, etc.). Is following NFPA 400 an effective way of protecting workers from reactive hazards?
  7. Has your facility implemented a reactive-hazards management program other than a program specified by the TCPA and NFPA 400? If so, please describe your facility's program, whether it protects workers more or less than the TCPA and NFPA 400, any economic impacts associated with the program, and any special circumstances involving small entities.
  8. What specific regulatory approach, if any, should OSHA use to comprehensively address reactive hazards, what would be the economic impacts of this approach, and would there be any special circumstances involving small entities? Are there specific requirements that OSHA should add to the PSM standard to ensure that employers adequately manage reactive-hazards?
  9. Please provide any data or information on workplace accidents, near misses, or other safety-related incidents involving reactive hazards not covered under the existing PSM standard. Would reactive-hazards management requirements in PSM have prevented the incidents?

Note that these questions primarily address coverage of reactive chemicals by the standard. Many of the management system elements that are part of the PSM standard would be affected by the expansion of coverage including process safety information, process hazard analysis and management of change.

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

Federal Register notice

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