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PT Notes

EPA RFI - Additional Risk Management Program Elements

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On July 24, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a Request for Information (RFI) seeking comments on potential revisions to its Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations and related programs to modernize its regulations. Multiple issues were addressed in the RFI.

One of the issues addresses whether additional RMP elements should be added to the regulation. EPA is requesting information on the management system elements the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified in their RFI, but with a focus on their applicability to the RMP requirements, and how they can enhance the protection of human health and the environment. EPA is also considering additional elements.

Both EPA and OSHA are considering three elements taken from the Risk Based Process Safety Program recommended by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS):

  • Measurements and Metrics

This element would require facilities to establish performance and efficiency indicators to track the effectiveness of the risk management system and to identify opportunities for improvement of its elements and work activities. This element would guide facilities in measuring the real-time performance of their process safety management systems. An example of a measurement and metrics indicator would be to track the frequency of process upsets and near-miss accidents.

  • Management Review and Continuous Improvement

This element would focus on ongoing 'due diligence' management reviews that fill the gap between day-to-day work activities and periodic formal audits. This element would require facilities to evaluate regularly the management systems in place, as opposed to waiting for an incident to occur, or for scheduled audits to identify deficiencies.

  • Process Safety Competency

This element would encompass three interrelated activities: (1) continuously improve on knowledge and competency, (2) ensure appropriate information is available to those who need it, and (3) consistently apply lessons learned. The main focus of this competency element is organizational learning so that process knowledge can be applied to situations in order to manage risk effectively.

EPA is also requesting information on two additional management system elements that were identified by OSHA in their review of relevant safety standards promulgated by other federal agencies. Specifically, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) promulgated revisions to their Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS II) requirements (78 FR 20423; April 5, 2013) to help ensure the safe operations of their regulated facilities. The revisions included a number of management system elements not addressed in the RMP regulation. EPA is focusing on two elements:

  • Stop Work Authority

This element creates procedures and authorizes any and all personnel who witness an imminent risk or dangerous activity to stop work.

  • Ultimate Work Authority

This element requires operators to define clearly who has the ultimate work authority on a facility for operational safety and decision-making at any given time.

In addition to the management system elements identified in the OSHA RFI, EPA is requesting public comment on whether there are other accident prevention elements that should be considered for inclusion in the RMP regulation. EPA notes that both the CCPS Guidelines for Risk Based Process Safety and the BSEE SEMS regulations contain additional management system elements not present in the RMP regulation. EPA is considering these elements:

  • Conduct of Operations

This element involves the execution of operational and management tasks in a deliberate and structured manner. It includes a variety of measures such as formal communications between workers, work groups, and work shifts. It also involves establishing clear rules governing access to key process areas, such as control rooms, performing regular tours or rounds to monitor equipment status, keeping written shift logs of equipment status and ongoing process activities, maintaining clear and accurate labeling for process equipment, and maintaining good housekeeping in process areas.

  • Process Safety Culture

This element addresses the combination of group values and behaviors that determine the manner in which process safety is managed. Poor safety culture can lead to accidents by allowing production pressures to overshadow safety concerns, or by limiting the free exchange of important safety information among plant personnel.

  • Job Safety Analysis

Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is an operations/task level hazard analysis technique used to identify risks to personnel associated with their job activities.

Additionally, EPA is seeking public comment on whether management system
elements that are currently contained within the RMP regulation should be modified, clarified, or strengthened, including these elements:

  • Contractors

Contractors are increasingly used in a variety of roles at chemical process facilities, yet the RMP rule imposes fewer safety requirements on contractor owners and operators than on the owners and operators of the regulated stationary source.

  • Process Hazard Analysis

The RMP rule requires owner/operators to conduct a Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) or a hazard review. EPA views PHAs and hazard reviews as intended to identify potential equipment malfunctions or human errors that could cause an accidental release, and safeguards needed to prevent such malfunctions and errors.

The RMP rule does not explicitly describe the types of failure scenarios or damage mechanisms that must be considered during PHAs and hazard reviews. During some compliance inspections, EPA has found PHAs and hazard reviews that did not address failure scenarios such as natural disasters (e.g., floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), corrosion, vehicle collisions, and others.

Additionally, the RMP rule requires hazard reviews to be "updated", and PHAs to be "updated and revalidated" at least every five years, but does not clearly define what is required.

  • Pre-Startup Review

This element requires the owner or operator to perform a pre-startup review for new stationary sources and for modified stationary sources when the modification is significant enough to require a change in the process safety information. However, the RMP rule does not state clearly what modifications would require a change in process safety information. Also, EPA notes that process unit startup is a significantly more hazardous period compared to normal process operations, and that serious accidents have occurred during process startup, even when no significant equipment modifications were made to the process during the preceding turnaround.

Questions posed by EPA on this issue include:

  1. Does your facility follow any management system elements not required under part 68 for RMP-regulated operations? If so, please describe the additional management system elements, the safety benefits, any economic impacts associated with following the elements, and any special circumstances involving small entities.
  2. Would expanding the scope of the RMP regulation to require additional management system elements, or expanding the scope of existing RMP management system elements, improve the protection of human health and the environment? Should EPA require safety culture assessments, job safety analyses, or any of the other new management system elements identified in the RFI? If so, please describe the elements, the safety benefits, any economic impacts associated with expanding the scope of the RMP regulation in this way, and any special circumstances involving small entities that EPA should consider. Would current staff at a facility be able to implement these additional elements or would new staff need to be hired?
  3. In systems using measurements and metrics, how do facilities develop useful leading indicators? Do you track the frequency of events such as process upsets, accidental releases, and "near miss" incidents? Does tracking such events allow managers and employees to make changes that prevent accidental releases? What other metrics and indicators do you use, and how do they help prevent releases?
  4. Would requiring RMP facilities to conduct periodic safety culture assessments meaningfully strengthen the safety culture incentives that already exist, such as avoidance of deaths, injuries, property and environmental damage, production loss, community impacts, damage to company reputation, etc., that may result from accidents?
  5. Would expansion of the RMP employee participation provision to include requirements such as the SEMS II stop-work authority, or other efforts to involve employees in all management system elements, enhance protection of human health and the environment?
  6. Are there any other management system elements in the existing RMP regulation that EPA should expand or clarify (e.g., a new requirement that facilities perform a root cause analysis for incidents under § 68.81, clarify PHA and hazard review requirements, require more frequent PHA and hazard review updates, have certain events trigger hazard review or PHA updates prior to the next scheduled update, strengthen contractor requirements, or require pre-startup reviews prior to all process startups)? If so, please describe the additional requirements, the safety benefits, any economic impacts associated with expanding the RMP regulation in this way, and any special circumstances involving small entities that EPA should consider.
  7. Are there any data or information on accidents, near misses, or other safety-related incidents that the facility could have prevented by following management system elements not currently required under the RMP regulation?
  8. What would be the paperwork burden associated with the revisions to management system elements identified above? What special skills or training would employees need to implement these elements, including associated reporting and record-keeping requirements? What would be the costs of additional reporting and record-keeping requirements, including costs for worker training and any required data management system upgrades?

Further details on this issue are provided in EPA's RFI which can be accessed by clicking here.

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