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September 21, 2022
OSHA postpones process safety stakeholder meeting

On September 20, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the postponement of a stakeholder meeting on possible changes to the agency’s process safety management (PSM) standard (87 Federal Register (FR) 57520). The meeting, which was originally scheduled for September 28, will be held October 12. Written comments must be submitted by November 14.

An OSHA rulemaking to update the agency’s PSM standard to address the risks of major chemical accidents is one of the agency’s six economically significant rulemakings. The others are communications tower safety, emergency response, infectious diseases, a tree care industry standard, and workplace violence in health care and social assistance.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) currently has 14 open recommendations for OSHA to address. The PSM standard has not been updated since it was first established in 1992.

Potential changes in the scope of OSHA’s PSM standard could include:

  • Clarifying the standard’s exemption for atmospheric storage tanks;
  • Expanding the standard’s scope to include oil- and gas-well drilling and servicing;
  • Resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities;
  • Expanding PSM coverage and requirements for reactive chemical hazards;
  • Updating and expanding the standard’s list of highly hazardous chemicals;
  • Amending the explosives and blasting agents standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1910.109) to extend PSM requirements to cover the dismantling and disposal of explosives and pyrotechnics;
  • Clarifying the scope of the retail facilities exemption; and
  • Defining the limits of a PSM-covered process.

Amendments to the standard could include:

  • A definition of “recognized and generally accepted as good engineering practices” (RAGAGEP);
  • A definition of critical equipment;
  • Strengthening employee participation and including stop-work authority;
  • Requiring evaluation of updates to applicable RAGAGEP;
  • Requiring continuous updating of collected information;
  • Requiring formal resolution of process hazard analysis team recommendations that are not utilized;
  • Requiring safer technology and alternatives analysis;
  • Clarifying requirements for considering natural disasters and extreme temperatures in employers’ PSM programs;
  • Expanding coverage of the mechanical integrity of any critical equipment;
  • Better explaining the definition of “equipment deficiencies”;
  • Clarifying the coverage of organizational changes;
  • Requiring root cause analysis;
  • Requiring coordination of emergency planning with local emergency response authorities;
  • Requiring third-party compliance audits;
  • Requiring that employers develop a system for periodic review of their PSM systems and the need for any revisions (previously referred to as “Evaluation and Corrective Action”); and
  • Requiring the development of written procedures for all elements specified in the standard and to identify records required by the standard, along with a records retention policy (previously referred to as “Written PSM Management Systems”).

President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order (EO), Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (E.O. 13650), on August 1, 2013, following an ammonium nitrate fertilizer explosion and fire in West, Texas. The EO directed OSHA and other federal agencies to modernize policies, regulations, and standards to enhance safety and security at chemical facilities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a separate proposal addressing risk management plan (RMP) requirements.

The stakeholder meeting will be held virtually on WebEx on Wednesday, October 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET. Those interested in participating may register online at https://www.osha.gov/process-safety-management/background/2022stakeholdermtg.

Whistleblower stakeholder meeting

On September 20, OSHA also announced a stakeholder meeting on the agency’s whistleblower enforcement program (87 FR 57520).

The agency is seeking stakeholder input on two questions:

  • How can OSHA deliver better whistleblower customer service?
  • What kind of assistance can OSHA provide to help explain the agency’s whistleblower laws to employees and employers?

The stakeholder meeting will be held on October 19, 2022, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET by telephone and virtually via Microsoft® Teams. Those interested in participating must register by October 12 at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/whistleblower-stakeholder-meeting-tickets-414876204897.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 first established OSHA’s whistleblower protection authority for workplace safety and health. The agency now has whistleblower protection authority under more than 20 federal statutes ranging from commercial motor vehicle and consumer product safety to anti-money laundering and financial reform. OSHA recently ordered Wells Fargo to pay an employee more than $22 million to cover back wages, front pay, interest, lost benefits and bonuses, and compensatory damages under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

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