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PT Notes

Executive Order Status Report - Modernizing Policies and Regulations

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

Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, was issued on August 1, 2013 owing to continued catastrophic chemical facility incidents. The Executive Order has the objective of enhancing the safety and security of chemical facilities and reducing risks associated with hazardous chemicals to owners and operators, workers, and communities. A Working Group was appointed to oversee work on the Executive Order.

The Working Group published a status report on June 6, 2014. An analysis of the current operating environment, existing regulatory programs, and stakeholder feedback resulted in immediate actions and a plan for future actions to further minimize risks, organized by five thematic areas:

  • Strengthening Community Planning and Preparedness
  • Enhancing Federal Operational Coordination
  • Improving Data Management
  • Modernizing Policies and Regulations
  • Incorporating Stakeholder Feedback and Developing Best Practices

This PT Note addresses Modernizing Policies and Regulations. Several issues were identified:

  • Many stakeholders expressed the need to modernize policies and regulations, while others said the focus should be on better enforcement of existing standards.
  • Some industry groups expressed their belief that no new regulations are necessary. Opinions varied greatly on topics such as safer alternatives, information sharing, emergency planning, and enhanced coverage of ammonium nitrate.
  • Chemical facility workers, LEPCs, first responders, and professional associations suggested actions that could be taken by industry to increase safety and security in and around chemical facilities, including empowering workers and encouraging employee participation in all elements of process safety such as reporting programs (for near misses and process upsets), investigating accidental releases, and participating in process hazard analyses.
  • There was agreement among facility owners and operators, plant workers, community members, environmental and union organizations of the importance of prevention of risks including the benefits of implementing safer alternatives where possible. There was, however, no consensus about the role of government in the implementation of safer alternatives.
  • Some stakeholders were concerned about how to address the proximity of chemical facilities to residents and sensitive populations such as schools and hospitals. Community residents expressed an interest in participating in citizen advisory groups to further engage in planning and prevention efforts, and influence any future policy or regulatory changes.

The Working Group took a number of actions to address these issues, including:

  • Publishing a solicitation of public input on options for policy, regulation, and standards modernization.
  • OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) on the agency's PSM standard and other related chemical standards to determine, among other things, whether these standards can, and should, be expanded to address additional regulated substances and types of hazards.
  • Working Group agencies, often with input from other stakeholders, also developed and disseminated various advisories or guidance materials across Federal program areas to inform and support communities, industries, and local officials.
  • EPA expanded its inspector training curriculum to include advanced process safety training courses in several key areas such as mechanical integrity codes and standards, root cause investigation, and human error prevention. Prior to the issuance of the executive order, EPA published revised guidance for RMP inspectors to ensure employee representatives participate in all RMP inspections.
  • DHS conducted over 100 compliance assistance visits in FY 2014 to date to assist CFATS-regulated facilities in understanding and meeting the program's risk-based security standards.

The Working Group identified ten priority action areas to modernize chemical facility safety and security policy and regulations, to include:

  • Modernizing OSHA's PSM standard to improve safety and enforcement.
  • Modernizing EPA's RMP regulation.
  • Enhancing ammonium nitrate safety and security.
  • Promoting safer technology and alternatives.
  • Building a stronger CFATS program.
  • Developing guidance and outreach programs to help industry understand process safety and security requirements and best practices.
  • Working with States to improve Safe Drinking Water Act measures to prevent and prepare for chemical spills.
  • Working with Congress to strengthen and increase OSHA monetary and criminal penalties.
  • Working with Congress to pursue statutory amendment to the Safe Explosives Act.
  • Improving the process for notification of stored explosives to fire authorities.

The Working Group report is available at: https://www.osha.gov/chemicalexecutiveorder/

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