Sunday, January 19, 2014

EO 13650 §6(a) RFI – OSHA Improvements

This is another in a series of posts addressing the recent request for information (RFI) from the EO 13650 Working Group. That RFI addressed requirements in §6(a) of the Improving Chemical Safety and Security Executive Order (EO 13650) for the Working Group to “develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations”. Earlier posts in the series include:

OSHA Accomplishments

OSHA standards are designed to protect workers from hazards in the workplace. There are a number of chemical related standards that are listed in the EO. They include:

PSM standard (29 CFR 1910.119);
• Flammable and Combustible Liquids standard (29 CFR 1910.106);
• Spray Finishing Using Flammable and Combustible Materials standard (29 CFR 1910.107);
• Explosive and Blasting Agents standard (29 CFR 1910.109)

OSHA claims (with some justification in my opinion) that these standards have generally made chemical workplaces safer. They do note, however, that some of these standards date to the 60’s and 70’s and do not reflect current knowledge and technology.

Surprisingly missing from the discussion of OSHA chemical related coverage are the Sub-part Z coverage of safety requirements for specific chemicals and the laboratory safety requirements of 1910.1450.

Suggested Areas for Improvement

The Working Group has identified eleven areas where the chemical safety rules could be improved. They include:

• Modernizing the PSM standard;
• Updating the PSM Appendix A list of coverage substances;
• Clarifying the retail and atmospheric storage tank exemptions in PSM;
• Updating and clarifying covered concentrations of the Appendix A list of PSM regulated chemicals;
• Exploring options for improving coverage of reactive substances, reactivity hazards, and explosive chemical hazards;
• Exploring a reporting requirement for PSM covered facilities;
• Updating the Flammable and Combustible Liquids standard;
• Updating the Spray Finishing Using Flammable and Combustible Materials standard;
• Evaluating the implementation of best practices and lessons learned such as the “safety case” regulatory model to reduce risk in complex industrial processes;
• Assessing safer alternatives as mechanisms to reduce chemical risk; and
• Evaluating opportunities for increasing worker involvement and labor-management cooperation in hazard investigations.

There is a certain amount of overlap between the suggestions listed above and the areas identified in the PSM update RFI published last month. The areas covered in this Working Group RFI extend beyond the Process Safety Management (PSM) program, but there are a few PSM related options listed here that were not covered in the earlier RFI. They include:

• Updating and clarifying covered concentrations of the Appendix A list of PSM regulated chemicals;
• Exploring a reporting requirement for PSM covered facilities; and
• Assessing safer alternatives as mechanisms to reduce chemical risk

As with the EPA suggestions, there is nothing in the OSHA standards that specifically addresses the issue of insider actions to deliberately sabotage a chemical process. Actions of disgruntled employees are much more likely to be a cause of chemical related incidents than would be a terrorist attack on a facility.

Given the importance of automated control systems throughout the chemical manufacturing and distribution process it is becoming increasingly important that those systems are adequately addressed in the chemical safety standards. That is not currently being addressed by OSHA.


One glaring omission from the PSM standards is a reference to emergency response. While the EPA does address emergency response activities, that coverage is focused on the emergency response activities required to deal with off-site consequences. OSHA should address on-site consequence response and mitigation activities.

While the PSM program is of obvious importance due to the extreme hazards associated with those covered processes there is a wide range of chemical processes that are potentially hazardous to employees that are not addressed in that standard. For example chemicals with an acute toxic hazard are addressed in the PSM program but those that have a long term chronic hazard (with the exception of some chemicals specifically listed in Subpart Z) are not. OSHA should look at expanding the PSM standard to include chronically hazardous chemical substances. Unfortunately, this may require legislative activity.

Lacking an expansion of the OSHA inspection force (at both the federal and State levels), the most effective way for expanding the effectiveness of the current programs will probably be requiring employers to submit more information to OSHA about their regulated programs. OSHA should look at developing reporting tools similar to those used by DHS in their CFATS program. Properly designed, such submissions could provide a useful tool for analyzing the effectiveness of existing programs and prioritizing inspection efforts.

Public Comments

This is a reminder that the whole purpose of this RFI is to get public feedback on these proposed ideas. The RFI requests the public to respond to these specific proposals for areas of improvement. That response should address the following (pg 9):

• Examples of where implementation of the same or similar options has been successful;
• Information or data that would characterize the positive impacts the options might have, including additional benefits;
• Potential limitations or unintended consequences of the options described;
• Methods for implementing the options, including methods for potentially increasing benefits or reducing costs; or
• Alternatives to the options that could achieve substantially the same result.

Comments need to be submitted by March 31st, 2014. They may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (; Docket #OSHA-2013-0026). 

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */