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PT Notes

Executive Order Status Report Highlights - Modernizing EPA's RMP Regulation

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 Federal Action Plan for future actions to further minimize risks.

This PT Note highlights actions from the Plan relating to modernizing EPA's RMP Regulation. The Plan calls for these actions within the next year:

  • Gather further input through an RFI and begin the regulatory process to modernize RMP by considering:
    • Whether the list of chemicals covered by the RMP rule should be updated with the potential addition and deletion of chemicals and should reflect new information on existing chemicals, for example, whether reactives and explosives should be added to the RMP list.
    • Strengthening or clarifying existing requirements and adding new prevention and emergency response program elements.
  • In addition to the potential addition and deletion of chemical hazards, the RFI will include consideration of other potential improvements, including:
    • Revising mechanical integrity requirements of safety-related equipment to ensure that critical process safety equipment and systems are in good working condition and are effective.
    • Adding new requirements for automated detection and monitoring systems, or adding performance measures for facilities already using these systems, that would supplement the existing PHA and/or emergency response requirements.
    • Establishing an obligation to track and conduct root cause analyses of frequent process events and near misses that could cause a release.
    • Requiring employers to implement a stop work authority for employees who witness an activity that creates a threat of danger and providing clearly defined requirements to establish an ultimate authority on the facility for operational safety and decision making.
    • Strengthening contractor safety requirements.
    • Establishing mechanisms to implement the newest available technologies and methods being brought to bear in chemical risk management, PHA, and emergency response.
    • Requiring that compliance audits be done by an independent auditor to increase the rigor and objectivity of the audit.
    • Establishing new performance measurement and management review requirements such as:
      • A measurements and metrics requirement to track the effectiveness of the risk management system and to identify opportunities for improvement.
      • A management review and continuous improvement requirement to focus on ongoing "due diligence" management reviews that fill the gap between day-to-day work activities and periodic formal audits.
      • A process safety competency requirement to focus on organizational learning so the process knowledge can be applied to situations in order to manage risk effectively.
    • Clarifying what is required in order for a PHA to be updated and revalidated, requiring revalidating PHAs more frequently than every 5 years, and requiring certain events such as an incident to trigger PHA revalidations prior to the next scheduled 5-year revalidation.
    • Clarifying emergency planning requirements to ensure effective coordination with community responders and ensuring facility personnel have practice responding to accidental releases; identifying mechanisms to ensure facilities perform exercises or drills as an element of the emergency response program; and conducting these exercises in conjunction with local responders to the degree possible.
    • Enhancing facilities' disclosure of key elements of their risk management plans and programs, including incident history, cause of incidents, identity of chemical, emergency contact information, identity of the LEPC, links to the local emergency response plan, and/or the facility's most recent EPCRA Tier II report to improve community understanding of chemicals.
    • Incorporating examination of the use of safer technology alternatives into the PHA for a process.
    • Using the Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs) developed by the National Advisory Committee for the Development of Acute Exposure Guideline Levels for Hazardous Substances to recalculate RMP reporting thresholds and toxic endpoints for offsite consequence analyses in order to better reflect the potential for adverse effects of an accidental release upon a community.

Other issues raised by stakeholders include:

  • Facility and equipment siting factors and buffer zones between the facility fence line and public receptors (e.g. residences, schools), which are controlled areas separating the public and other facilities from the potential impact of an accidental chemical release.
  • Whether the current worst-case scenario, which involves a catastrophic failure of the single largest vessel, should also assess the total catastrophic failure of multiple smaller vessels stored in close proximity to one another.

EPA plans to work with stewardship programs and industry code and practice organizations to enhance such programs based on the above items while promoting more rigorous implementation.

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

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