Managing OSHA

Critical but practical advice for when OSHA comes knocking.

Managing OSHA

Chemical Safety Board

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OSHA Indicates Regulatory Changes are Coming to Fix “Gaps” in PSM Standard

Recently, OSHA unveiled a new regulatory agenda that included proposed rulemaking on “Process Safety Management and Flammable Liquids.”  This decision is hardly a surprise given the catastrophic explosions in West, TX, Geismar, LA, and Donaldsonville, LA, all of which have occurred within the past few months.

At the same time, OSHA has faced increased public scrutiny, most recently from US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairperson, Rafael Moure-Eraso, who, on July 25th, publicly criticized OSHA’s lack of response to several PSM-related CSB recommendations as “unacceptable.” Shortly thereafter, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order re: “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security” on August 1st, calling for regulatory updates to cover additional hazardous chemicals (including reactives), interagency cooperation on information sharing, and identification of best practices for chemical facility safety and security.  

If OSHA follows through with its regulatory agenda, employers can expect several changes to the PSM standard that will undoubtedly affect their operations.

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Chemical Safety Board’s Efforts to Recreate Itself and Force Industry to Conform to its Recommendations

A hydrocarbon release and massive fire took place at a Chevron Refinery in Richmond, California on August 6, 2012.  CSB and several other agencies promptly began investigations of the incident.  CSB’s role is to seek the root cause of the release of hazardous chemicals and make recommendations to the industry to help prevent the same mistake from being made again.  According to the agency’s statutory mandate, CSB may go so far as to recommend measures and propose corrective steps to other agencies, federal and local, in order to make working with chemicals as safe as possible.  In what seems to be turning into a pattern for CSB, however, it has ignored the boundaries of its mandate, directly inserting itself into the decision-making process of how best to rebuild the Richmond Chevron facility.

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CSB Releases Video on Richmond Refinery Incident Despite Objections from Chevron

On Friday April 19, 2013 during a public meeting at the Richmond Civic Center, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its video animation of the August 6, 2012 incident at the Chevron Richmond Refinery. While the CSB has frequently garnered awards for its safety videos, this latest installment is not without controversy. On the same day, Chevron published the following statement on its Chevron Richmond Refinery Incident Response website:

“After we previewed the animation, we strongly urged the CSB not to release it. We informed the CSB that the animation contains numerous, material factual inaccuracies, the impact of which is to oversimplify, and in some instances trivialize, decisions that were made on that day. The animation also focuses on the actions of specific individuals, which we believe has the effect, surely not intended, of demeaning the challenges faced by the responding personnel. The reasons behind the incident are far more complex than depicted in the animation and we are disappointed with the CSB's decision to go forward with this unfair depiction.”

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CSB Sharply Criticizes API 755 and Seeks Public Comment

(Last week, we highlighted concerns over the CSB’s ambitious agenda, as laid out in the agency’s recently released Five-Year Plan. In today’s post, and those that will soon follow, we see more evidence of the CSB’s aggressive movement to play a bigger role in PSM enforcement.)

In the wake of a fire and explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others at the BP Texas City facility in 2005, CSB made a number of recommendations intended to improve safety in the refining and petrochemical industries.  Among other things, CSB recommended that a standard be developed on fatigue prevention management. In April 2010, API published the first edition of ANSI/API Recommended Practice 755 titled “Fatigue Risk Management Systems for Personnel in the Refining and Petrochemical Industries,” which provides a wide range of options that employers can use to design and employ a comprehensive worker fatigue prevention program. In its 2012 – 2016 Strategic Plan, CSB proposed to study ANSI/API RP 755, analyzing the effectiveness of the recommended practice. Given the relatively recent release of ANSI/API RP 755 and the fact that industry is still in the process of applying its recommendations, employers objected to CSB’s proposed study, arguing that an analysis of ANSI/API RP 755 was premature at this time.

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Chemical Safety Board Pursues Ambitious and Far-Reaching Five-Year Plan

On March 29, 2012, CSB requested public comment on its 2012 – 2016 Strategic Plan. The Plan outlines the Chemical Safety Board’s (CSB) objectives for the next several years, explaining that it will focus its efforts on conducting incident investigations and safety studies that involve accidental releases or potential releases of hazardous chemicals, and improving safety and environmental protection by securing implementation of CSB recommendations and broadly disseminating CSB findings.

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