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On December 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) and announced that it was seeking comment from the public concerning changes to the Process Safety Management (“PSM”) standard (29 CFR § 1910.119) and other “policy options” to prevent “major chemical incidents.” This RFI was issued in response to Executive Order 13650, which was issued in response to the April 17, 2013, ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, which killed 15 people.

OSHA will likely update and change its PSM, explosives and blasting agents, flammable liquids, and spray finishing standards. With respect to the PSM standard, OSHA is likely to change its enforcement policies, as well. This RFI was issued after OSHA issued a so-called “Pre-Rule Change Draft” relative to the PSM standard.

Based on the “Pre-Rule Change Draft,” OSHA is considering the following changes:

  1. Updating the list of highly hazardous chemicals contained in Appendix A of the PSM standard and expanding PSM coverage and requirements to reactive materials;
  2. Requiring coordination of emergency planning with Local Emergency Response Authorities;
  3. Expanding mechanical integrity requirements to any equipment deemed critical to safety;
  4. Clarifying or eliminating the PSM exemption for atmospheric storage tanks;
  5. Defining the phrase “recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices” (“RAGAGEP”) and considering how RAGAGEP updates are applied to processes already designed and constructed;
  6. Adding management-system elements and implementing an explicit requirement that employers manage organizational changes;
  7. Eliminating the oil and gas drilling and servicing exemption;
  8. Resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities covered by the PSM standard; and
  9. Expanding coverage and requirements for reactivity hazards; and
  10. Updating §1910.106 and 1910.107 based on the latest consensus standard

These changes will require affected industries to expend substantial time, effort and resources to comply with any new standards, much like when PSM was first implemented. Employers should also expect these changes to potentially prompt revisions to the Clean Air Act’s Risk Management Plan requirements.