New PSM Enforcement Policies Effect Important Changes



In June and July 2015, OSHA published significant changes to its enforcement policies on the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard in the form of guidance documents. These changes reflect items listed in the PSM RFI (December 9, 2013) and may significantly impact sites that were formerly exempt from the PSM standard. Applicability of the PSM standard to site operations can affect the RMP Program Level for a site, moving it from a Level 2 site (with less Prevention Program elements) to a Level 3 site that requires full Prevention Program implementation. Significant changes to the exemptions include the following:

Change to the PSM Retail Facility Exemption (29 CFR 1910.119(a)(2)((i)) (July 22, 2015) - this policy clarifies that the exemption applies only to NAICS sector 44-45 Retail Trade and not to NAICS Sector 42 Wholesale Trade and rescinds previous guidance including the "50% rule" approach. This will bring in facilities that sell bulk quantities of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHC) to commercial establishments, ammonia to farmers, and other wholesale operations. OSHA will provide a six month transition period from the date of guidance publication. OSHA has indicated in a memo to the PSM RFI docket that it does not intend to issue a Notice of Proposed Rule Making for this change.

Adoption of a New Enforcement Policy: the One Percent Test (June 5, 2015) - this new policy changes the method to determine the threshold quantity (TQ) of mixtures of Appendix A Highly Hazardous Chemicals (HHC) by adopting a 1% mixture rule, similar to the RMP mixture rule but using the PSM Appendix A list and threshold quantities [TQ]. Previously, only commercial grades (generally 99% or higher) of listed chemicals were evaluated against PSM TQ unless Appendix A contained a listed concentration. Only 11 of the 137 chemicals in Appendix A contain specific concentrations. This guidance includes an option for a partial pressure exemption for mixtures, similar to the current RMP rule. Previous guidance regarding PSM mixtures is rescinded by this guidance.

Clarification of RAGAGEP (June 5, 2015) – Clarification on the interpretation of OHSA’s PSM Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practice (RAGAGEP) requirements.  Key clarifications include what OSHA considers as potential sources of RAGAGEP, guidance on enforcement of “shall,” “should,” and “should not” steps from RAGAGEP and their appendices.  A list of expected citations from enforcement officers for various RAGAGEP situations is included. 

As policy matters (rather than rule making actions), these changes are considered immediately effective, except for the six month transition period associated with retail exemption change.  For more information or assistance in determining applicability for your facility, contact Natalie VanLiew at nvanliew@trinityconsultants.com or at (913) 894-4500.