Saturday, May 14, 2016

OSHA Updates RAGAGEP Enforcement Guidance

This week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated their enforcement guidance document that addresses the Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP) requirements of the Process Safety Management (PSM) program. The original memorandum was published in June of last year.

SNARKY Comment

I’m going to start of this post with a very snarky comment, but it is one of my pet peeves so please bear with me.

For an agency that is very big on enforcing management of change policies in regulated environments they do a piss poor job of following those requirements in their own activities. This is a revision of an existing document but there is no summary of the changes made to the document, no explanation as to why the changes have been made and there is no clear statement as to when the changes take effect. Come on people, cut your employees and the regulated industries a little slack here.

Apparently Minor Changes

There are a number of wording changes that would appear to be relatively minor and inconsequential except for the fact that they are made throughout the document. For example, the word ‘published’ is removed as an adjective extensively throughout the whole document. We see this first in the first section of the document (now entitled ‘Examples of RAGAGEP’ where it was called ‘Primary Sources of RAGAGEP’) where ‘Published and widely adopted codes’ was changed to ‘Widely adopted codes’ and similar changes were made to the next two paragraph headings.

The word ‘publish’ and its variants were removed from the discussion in each of those three paragraphs as well. Does this mean that covered facilities can reference RAGAGEP standards that have not been published? And if they have not been published, how can an OSHA inspector determine if the facility is in compliance with those RAGAGEP? Or was this word removed to avoid confusion between publishing in the form of printed documents versus being published only in electronic format? Or was this just a change because the author of the new memorandum just has a thing about the word ‘publish’? This is an area where the appropriate use of management of change processes could provide some clarity.

Other Uses of RAGAGEP

The original memo included a section on other uses of RAGAGEP materials in PSM. It stated:

“Only the three sections of 1910.119 referenced above require compliance with RAGAGEP. However, RAGAGEP can also provide useful background and context, and can help CSHOs identify and document hazards and feasible means of abatement when reviewing other aspects of the employer’s PSM program and covered equipment.”

 This section is not included in the new version published this week. I would assume (because OSHA does not explain the change I am allowed to make assumptions) that this is because some OSHA inspectors were using RAGAGEP as justification for violations that had nothing to do with the RAGAGEP requirements of 1910.119. That would clearly be regulatory overreach and that would put OSHA in a bad light when complaints were brought before an administrative law judge.


In the ‘Enforcement Considerations’ section of the memorandum there is another unexplained exorcise of a paragraph in consideration #12. That consideration deals with appropriate process mitigations when changes to RAGAGEP have been made. The original memo closed out the discussion with the following paragraph that is not in the newer version:

“This can be accomplished through a variety of approaches, such as but not limited to the PHA revalidation and management of change (MOC) processes, or through corporate monitoring and review of published standards. Citations for 29 CFR 1910.119(d)(3)(iii), either stand-alone or grouped with, for example, (e)(3) or (l)(1), may be appropriate if the employer fails to address the issues (see item 8 above).”

 While that original paragraph was not very clear on how these ‘approaches’ would be used to “address issues raised by or identified in the updated RAGAGEP”, it did at least point the OSHA inspector (and the covered facility) in the direction of looking in these areas to see if the RAGAGEP changes had been appropriately dealt with. I have no idea (or even wild assumption) about why this was removed from the guidance document.


Remembering that this is a guidance document for OSHA inspectors I am disappointed that the changes made in this revision do nothing to clarify matters relating to the weakest point of the guidance; how to deal with revisions to RAGAGEP in an actual covered chemical process. If anything, the removal of the paragraph from item #12 actually muddies the water somewhat.

Covered facilities should also be able to use these memoranda to help them understand how inspectors are supposed to be looking at their PSM programs. This should help facilities to craft their programs in a way that is not only safe but compliant with current requirements. While compliance certainly does ensure safety, it is certainly in the best interest of facility management that they understand the compliance requirements.

Making changes to enforcement guidance is making changes to compliance requirements, even if (maybe most importantly, especially if) there are no changes being made to the regulations. Thus it is important to both inspectors and facility process safety managers to understand the true scope and reasons for changes to that guidance. Making changes to that guidance without an appropriate management of change does a disservice to both the inspectors and the regulated community.

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