Prepare for More Safety Inspections

A recently launched enforcement program targets chemical facilities.

By Michael J. Hazzan and Martin R. Rose, AcuTech Consulting Group

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The recent OSHA Directive 09-06 (CPL-02) indicates the Chemical NEP, like the Refinery one, will focus on the following PSM elements:

• mechanical integrity;
• operating procedures;
• management of change (MOC);
• pre-startup safety review; and
• contractor safety.

The Refinery NEP also concentrated on Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), as indicated by the citations issued; this likely will also be true for the Chemical NEP.

Facilities that only store highly hazardous chemicals will be inspected using all questions from the PSM general dynamic list. OSHA has generated process-specific lists for ammonia refrigeration, water and wastewater treatment, chemical processing, and other categories of processes.

CONDUCTING THE INSPECTION
During the Refinery NEP, OSHA selected a specific process unit to focus the NEP inspection. It likely will do the same while implementing Chemical NEP inspections. However, inspectors may expand the evaluation if they feel issues extend to other units. The program also includes inspection of contractors and subcontractors performing work at the facility.

The inspection will examine PSM systems in place, even though for many PSM elements the PSM Standard doesn't explicitly require these systems. For example, OSHA inspectors likely will review the mechanical integrity (MI) system for managing inspections and tests of equipment, including handling of late and overdue inspections, selection of inspection frequencies, the approval process for modifications to frequencies, etc., despite the standard not specifically mandating such a MI management system.

OSHA also will examine the interrelationship between process safety elements and will audit the flow of information among these elements. For example, a valve change may impact MOC, MI, process safety information and PHA, and that change should appear in the procedures and records associated with every affected element. To ensure all PSM systems/elements are being fully implemented, inspectors will consider citing all applicable violations in different PSM elements.

As with the Refinery NEP, and as is typical with OSHA enforcement practices, inspectors also can generate citations for alleged violations of general OSHA standards, such as lockout/tagout, hazard communication, confined space, etc., if deficiencies are found during the Chemical NEP inspection. This is typical OSHA enforcement practice. Roughly 25% of the Refinery NEP citations were for non-PSM, occupational safety issues.

One issue that OSHA has had to address is a lack of staff capable of conducting PSM inspections. Most Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHO) have health (industrial hygiene) or occupational safety expertise. While inspectors will have completed basic PSM training prior to conducting NEP visits, few have the technical training and background to effectively evaluate complex PSM programs. Very few CSHOs are engineers or have operations experience in the chemical industry. To address this issue, OSHA has embarked on a major effort to train its CSHOs in PSM. A high percentage of the approximately 1,000 CSHOs have been trained to date and more training will be needed to implement the Chemical NEP on a significant scale. It's important to note that federal OSHA and its directives only apply to 29 of 50 states; the remainder operate State Plans and are encouraged, but not required, to implement the federal Chemical Facility PSM National Emphasis Program.

LESSONS LEARNED AND RECOMMENDATIONS

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