IIAR Builds Coalition to Comment on Proposed PSM Changes

The Obama Administration continues its work under the Executive Order entitled: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security that was signed in August 2013. One of the key issues for IIAR is a Request for Information, RFI, issued by OSHA addressing potential changes to Process Safety Management, PSM, regulations.

In response to the RFI, IIAR established a task force to examine the proposal and identify potential areas of concern. The task force developed a set of detailed comments that were submitted to OSHA in March. IIAR reached out to partner organizations to build a coalition around the comments.

As a result of these efforts, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses, American Meat Institute, American Frozen Food Institute and Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association joined with IIAR in submitting the comments.

Below is a summary of some of the key changes proposed by OSHA and the coalition’s response:

OSHA Proposal: Revising the PSM Standard to Require Additional Management-System Elements

Executive Order 13650 requires OSHA to “identify issues related to modernizing the PSM standard.” When OSHA promulgated the PSM standard in 1992, the standard adopted management-system elements based on best practices from industry at the time.

However, best practices have continued to evolve since 1992 and additional management-system elements may now be recognized to be necessary to protect workers. In the RFI, OSHA sought public comment on additional management-system elements that would increase worker protection if required under the PSM standard.

Coalition Response:

The coalition commented that revising the PSM Standard to require additional management-system elements raises a number of questions and concerns. Because the PSM Standard is supposed to be performance-based, we are opposed to requiring specifying management-system metrics required by those subject to the standard.

Requiring facilities to use and share metrics is more prescriptive than a performance-based standard should mandate. In addition, the PSM Standard already includes management practices in almost all elements.

OSHA Proposal: Amending Paragraph (d) of the PSM Standard to Require Evaluation of Updates to Applicable Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP)

The current PSM standard requires employers to document that covered equipment complies with Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices, RAGAGEP. However, the PSM standard does not require employers to evaluate updates to applicable RAGAGEP or to examine new RAGAGEP after evaluating and documenting compliance with current standards.

OSHA invited comments on the best approach to revising paragraphs in the PSM standard to require employers to evaluate updates to applicable RAGAGEP that could help prevent or mitigate accidents.

Coalition Response:

The coalition responded that IIAR standards represent the most applicable RAGAGEP for the ammonia refrigeration industry. These standards should be the primary source material for OSHA inspectors in ammonia refrigeration facilities. However, it is important that facilities maintain the flexibility to define the RAGAGEP for their facilities. The addition of a requirement to evaluate updates to applicable RAGAGEP is not necessary.

The Management of Change, MOC, and Process Hazards Analysis, PHA, sections of PSM and RMP are sufficient to identify risks without a stand-alone requirement for evaluation of RAGAGEP.

Furthermore, it is likely impractical for covered facilities to update all processes to maintain conformance with current standards without any other changes in design. The MOC and PHA elements coupled with Employee Participation and Pre-Startup Safety Review are adequate for identification of new hazards created by process changes or to identify hazards based on incidents since the last PHA Revalidation.

Adoption of requirements of a revised code or standard at a specific facility should still be left to the determination of the facility.

OSHA Proposal: Clarifying the PSM Standard by Adding a Definition for RAGAGEP

The term RAGAGEP is mentioned in the current PSM standard, but it does not provide a definition. OSHA has requested comment on whether inclusion of a RAGAGEP definition would be appropriate.

Coalition Response:

The coalition agreed that adding a definition for RAGAGEP could be useful to help owners better understand requirements under the standard. A definition for RAGAGEP may also be helpful in reducing the instances of OSHA inspectors citing standards that are not as applicable to a given type of facility.

For example, there have been occasions where OSHA inspectors have applied other industry standards to ammonia refrigeration facilities. Better defining RAGAGEP can reduce the misapplication of standards by inspectors and facilitate better understanding and application by facility owners. A definition of RAGAGEP should include methods and “whys”, but not go so far as how to do something like inspect, which becomes a maintenance procedure.

A definition of RAGAGEP should not take away the ability of a facility to identify which RAGAGEP they are applying to their operations.

OSHA Proposal: Expanding the Scope of Paragraph (j) of the PSM Standard to Cover the Mechanical Integrity of any Safety-Critical Equipment

The current PSM standard requires employers to implement an ongoing mechanical-integrity program with respect to their PSM-covered processes. OSHA sought comment on whether all equipment the employer identifies as critical to process safety-critical equipment should be covered under mechanical integrity.

Coalition Response:

The coalition responded that conceptually, the proposal to expand the coverage of the mechanical integrity element to all safety-critical equipment seems reasonable. For the ammonia refrigeration industry, covered facilities already must identify components, controls and PM frequency for them in accordance with OEM recommendations. In addition, IIAR is currently working on IIAR-6 that will be designed to specify the mechanical integrity requirements for all safetycritical equipment in an ammonia refrigeration system.

However, for such a change to be effective, a workable definition of “safety-critical” must be developed. The determination of what is safety-critical can be subject to broad interpretation.

For example, the loss of any utility within the control of the owner could be construed to represent a significant risk to the process, even when the process is designed to safely shutdown on a loss of utilities. However, there would likely be no special requirement for the utilities out of control of the owner.

OSHA Proposal: Expanding the Scope of Paragraph (l) of the PSM Standard with an Explicit Requirement that Employees Manage Organizational Changes

The existing PSM standard does not explicitly state that employers must follow management-of-change procedures for organizational changes, such as changes in management structure, budget cuts, or personnel changes. OSHA requested comment on whether organizational changes should be included in the standard.

Coalition Response:

The coalition’s response stated that there is some merit in expanding the Management of Change requirements to include organization changes, as long as there is clear guidance on what organizational changes qualify. We believe that the majority of organizational changes do not rise to the level of requiring inclusion in Management of Change. In the spirit of performance based standards, facility owners should be given a sufficient level of flexibility to design their own programs to meet the requirement.

OSHA Proposal: Revising Paragraph (n) of the PSM Standard to Required Coordination of Emergency Planning with Local Emergency-Response Authorities

OSHA has suggested that revising the PSM standard to require facilities to coordinate emergency planning with local emergency-response authorities could help prevent or mitigate accidents by allowing first responders to develop the appropriate strategies in advance of their arrival. The agency sought comment on how this could be achieved.

Coalition Response:

The coalition agreed that coordination with local emergency planning and response authorities is an important aspect of safety. Such coordination is already specifically required through EPA regulations such as Hazard Communication, Emergency Action and HAZWOPER. As a result, there is not a direct benefit of OSHA adding this recommendation into the PSM code.

Rather than additional regulations to PSM, OSHA should reference other federal codes applicable to emergency response such that there is not a burden created if one code is updated while another is not. This could cause contradiction and complexity/confusion for implementation. We believe the proposed change is a duplication of efforts by regulatory bodies.

OSHA Proposal: Revising Paragraph (o) of the PSM Standard to Require Third-Party Compliance Audits

The current PSM standard requires facility audits every three years, but does not specify who should conduct the audits. OSHA is proposing to require these audits be done by third parties.

Coalition Response:

Compliance audits are useful tools for evaluating a facility’s safety. However, IIAR is concerned about the intended definition of “third-party.” Third-party audits should not be limited to hiring outside personnel to perform the audit. Facilities should have the flexibility to choose external parties as well as utilize internal safety experts from other facilities or corporate headquarters to perform audits.

In addition to responses directly related to questions raised in the RFI, the coalition also raised the importance of investments in training and safety. Currently, penalties associated with citations result in payments going directly to the U.S. Treasury. Under this system, funds associated with citations are purely punitive and end there.

IIAR strongly believes that these resources would be better placed by directing them to investments in training and upgrading safety programs. Such a mechanism would facilitate a greater engagement between companies and the agency in addressing deficiencies and developing stronger safety programs.

The RFI represents a first step towards regulatory changes to PSM. OSHA will need to initiate a formal rulemaking process that would likely include a proposed rule where further public comment would be solicited. This can be a lengthy process, but given the high priority placed on the Executive Order by the Administration, additional agency actions are expected. IIAR and its partners will continue to work closely with OSHA and other relevant federal agencies as implementation of the Executive Order continues.