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Status Report Shows OSHA/EPA Making Progress on PSM and RMP Revisions

V&E Employment, Labor and OSHA Update E-communication, June 10, 2014

On June 6, 2014, the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group (Working Group) created under President Obama's Executive Order (EO) 13,650 released a status report showing progress by federal agencies including the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on efforts to modernize safety standards and regulations for the production and storage of hazardous chemicals. President Obama issued the order in August 2013 after several catastrophic accidents in chemical storage facilities, including the deadly fertilizer explosion in West, Texas. In response, both OSHA and EPA have moved closer to major revisions of their current hazardous chemical and other safety standards.

Amendments to OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard
Over the next twelve months, OSHA plans to revise its PSM regulations to improve hazardous chemical safety and enforcement. It also plans to initiate the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) review to determine the impact of such revisions on small businesses. Some proposed changes to the PSM standard include:

  • expanding coverage of the standard to include upstream oil & gas drilling and servicing operations;
  • requiring employers to undergo third-party PSM compliance audits and hazard analysis;
  • updating the list of highly hazardous chemicals in Appendix A;
  • requiring employers to coordinate emergency planning with local emergency-response authorities; and
  • mandating that employers periodically re-evaluate their PSM programs in light of constantly evolving engineering and safety standards, such as newly available safety technology or potentially safer design upgrades.

OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) related to these and other proposed changes in December 2013. The full text is available in the  Federal Register.

RFI on EPA's Risk Management Plan (RMP) Standard
By the end of Summer 2014, EPA plans to publish an RFI on possible updates to its RMP regulations. After reviewing public comments, the agency plans to propose revisions by 2015 and to finalize amendments to the regulations by 2016. Some proposed changes to the RMP standard include:

  • updating the list of covered reactives and explosives;
  • revising mechanical integrity requirements for safety equipment;
  • mandating that employers use automated detection and monitoring systems to supplement Process Hazard Analyses (PHAs);
  • requiring third-party RMP compliance audits;
  • updating contractor safety regulations and granting stop work authority to employees who witness activities creating an immediate threat of danger;
  • increasing employers' management review and disclosure responsibilities;
  • requiring more frequent updates to PHAs, including consideration and review of newly available safety technology; and
  • requiring assessment of possible catastrophic failure of multiple small vessels stored in close proximity.

Other 2014 Goals
The Working Group has also set additional short-term goals for 2014. For example, OSHA and EPA will consider updating regulations to better protect against ammonium nitrate hazards, and the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards will be strengthened. Federal agencies will work with states to improve enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act to prepare for chemical spills, and the Working Group will lobby Congress to increase OSHA's civil and criminal penalties. To develop best practices and incorporate industry feedback, the Working Group will seek comments on all proposed changes from interested stakeholders.

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This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.