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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Because many of the dynamic list questions used in the Chemical NEP likely will come from the Refinery NEP static and dynamic list questions, chemical facilities can learn from the past three years of OSHA enforcement in the refinery sector. OSHA has focused on the areas identified in Table 1.

Through May 2009, OSHA has issued 1,517 citations resulting from the Refinery NEP. Approximately 98% of these related to ten elements of the standard (Figure 1). Approximately 75% of the citations were against specific sub-elements, (Table 2). The Refinery NEP citations represent approximately $4.7 million in initial fines. The Chemical NEP probably will focus on similar aspects of PSM programs, at least initially, until citation trends in the chemical sector are established and the dynamic question list is adjusted to account for those trends.

Because it's unlikely a site's triennial compliance audits went deep enough to examine the same issues covered in Chemical NEP inspections, we encourage facilities subject to the program to use a multipronged preparation strategy (Figure 2). The core of the approach is to ensure the facility PSM program is operational. An outside audit of the program, focusing on NEP aspects, may be helpful. The next layer of preparedness is to coordinate with internal affiliates and corporate offices to achieve a common approach to managing Chemical NEP inspections. This strategic approach also should involve developing a standardized system to manage any citations issued during the Chemical NEP, including internally communicating findings to reduce potential for the same citations being given at affiliate facilities. The last layer is to prepare the facility. Inform personnel — full-time employees and contract personnel — who either may be interviewed during an inspection or otherwise interface with the inspector. Ensure facility records related to PSM are in order and easily accessible during an inspection, and that the facility itself has its PSM program in order. Preparation for the Chemical NEP is key not only to possibly reducing regulatory liability but also to helping ensure a safe and productive workplace for all employees.

Which facilities are affected?

Programmed OSHA Chemical NEP inspections will target facilities that store, process or otherwise handle:

 • anhydrous ammonia as a refrigerant or for other purposes;
 • chlorine for water treatment or other services; or
 • other highly hazardous chemicals.

A variety of facilities are excluded from such programmed inspections. These include:

• refineries (NAICS code 32411);
• chemical facilities in Voluntary Protection Programs; and
• chemical facilities located in state-plan states. (However, these facilities may be subject to state NEP or NEP-like inspections. Industry's experience with the Refinery NEP indicates that some states, such as California, Minnesota, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, that implemented an in-state Refinery NEP will choose to implement an in-state Chemical NEP.)


Michael J. Hazzan, PE, is manager, Eastern Business Unit, AcuTech Consulting Group, Princeton, N.J.. Martin R. Rose is a senior principal consultant, AcuTech Consulting Group, McLean, Va. E-mail them at mhazzan@acutech-consulting.com and mrose@acutech-consulting.com.

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