OSHA Law Update: Potential Changes to OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard


Last year, President Obama issued Executive Order 13650 which requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to publish a Request for Information (“RFI”) to identify issues related to modernizing the Process Safety Management (“PSM”) standard and related standards to prevent major chemical accidents.

In response to the Executive Order, OSHA initiated a rulemaking effort by publishing the RFI in the Federal Register on December 9, 2013. OSHA is considering significant changes to the PSM standard that would expand the obligation to comply with the PSM standard.

OSHA has identified 17 topics for potential rulemaking or enforcement policy changes. Two are specific to the oil and gas industry: removing the PSM exemption for well drilling and servicing, and resuming PSM enforcement at well production facilities.

The other 15 topics are not limited to the oil and gas industry:

  • Removing the PSM exemption for flammable liquids in atmospheric storage tanks;
  • Expanding PSM coverage and requirements for reactivity hazards;
  • Updating the list of highly hazardous chemicals to which the PSM standard is applicable;
  • Revising the PSM standard to require additional management-system elements;
  • Amending paragraph (d) of the PSM standard to require evaluation of updates to the applicable recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (“RAGAGEP”);
  • Clarifying the PSM standard by adding a definition for RAGAGEP;
  • Expanding the scope of paragraph (j) of the PSM standard to cover the mechanical integrity of any safety-critical equipment;
  • Clarifying paragraph (l) of the PSM standard with an explicit requirement that employers manage organizational changes;
  • Revising paragraph (n) of the PSM standard to require coordination of emergency planning with local emergency-response authorities;
  • Revising paragraph (o) of the PSM standard to require third-party compliance audits;
  • Expanding the requirements of 40 C.F.R. §§ 1910.106 and 1910.109 to cover dismantling and disposal of explosives, blasting agents, and pyrotechnics;
  • Updating §§ 1910.106 and 1910.107 based on the latest applicable consensus standards;
  • Updating the regulations addressing the storage, handling, and management of ammonium nitrate;
  • Changing the enforcement policy of the PSM exemption for retail facilities; and
  • Changing the enforcement policy for highly hazardous chemicals listed in Appendix A of the PSM standard without specific concentrations.

These changes would substantially increase the number of sites having to comply with the complex PSM standard as well as making compliance more difficult. The deadline to submit comments and additional material on this RFI is March 10, 2014. As these potential changes to the PSM standard and enforcement apply broadly across various sectors of the industry, it is important for those potentially affected by the changes to review this RFI and submit comments and additional material to OSHA before the proposed rulemaking is published.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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