Process safety management needs modernization

Implementing key federal and state chemical safety board (CSB) recommendations will result in significant improvement of process safety management (PSM) regulations in the United States.

By Gregory Hale, ISSSource January 5, 2015

Over the last two decades, the U.S. chemical safety board (CSB) has made a number of recommendations related to OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) program and the EPA’s risk management program (RMP). Many of them, however, have not enjoyed full implementation. By adding the modernizing of U.S. process safety management regulations to the CSB’s Most Wanted Safety Improvement list, the agency is identifying this issue as one of the board’s most important recommendations-related goals.

"As chairperson of the CSB I see this as an important opportunity to advance national process safety management reform by advocating for this issue as part of the board’s Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvements Program," said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso. "My hope is that reform will help to prevent future catastrophic accidents."

The CSB said despite some positive improvements in PSM regulations in the U.S., regulations have undergone little reform since their inception in the 1990s. Of particular interest are the board’s recent investigations of major refinery incidents that found PSM and RMP, although written as performance-based regulations, appear to function primarily as reactive and activity-based regulatory frameworks that require extensive rulemaking to modify. This potentially results in stagnating risk levels, even as industry-recommended best practices and technology continue to advance in the U.S. and overseas.

The CSB’s investigations of major refinery accidents found there was no requirement to reduce risks to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP); there was no mechanism to ensure continuous safety improvement; no requirement to implement inherent safety or the hierarchy of controls; that there should be an increased role for workers and worker representatives in process safety management; and there needs to be a more proactive, technically qualified regulator.

As a result of these findings, the CSB made recommendations at the federal, state, and local levels to prevent major incidents by adopting a more rigorous regulatory system that requires covered facilities to continuously reduce major hazard risks.

"Modernizing PSM regulations is an issue rooted in critical safety recommendations made over the last two decades to prevent recurrence of catastrophic industrial accidents. Recent activities have provided the board with a unique opportunity to advocate for these much needed reforms," said CSB board member Mark Griffon.

President Obama’s August 1, 2013, Executive Order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, resulted in OSHA and the EPA issuing requests for information (RFI), and both agencies may soon initiate rulemaking to revise the existing regulations. The CSB submitted a comprehensive response to each RFI detailing needed improvements to the existing regulations, supported by a number of CSB ongoing and completed investigations.

For PSM, the CSB recommended for OSHA to:

  • Expand the rule’s coverage to include the oil and gas exploration and production sector
  • Cover reactive chemical hazards
  • Add additional management system elements to include the use of leading and lagging indicators to drive process safety performance and provide stop work authority to employees
  • Update existing Process Hazard Analysis requirements to include the documented use of inherently safer systems, hierarchy of controls, damage mechanism hazard reviews, and sufficient and adequate safeguards
  • Develop more explicit requirements for facility/process siting and human factors, including fatigue.

For RMP, in addition to PSM program related enhancements mentioned above, the CSB recommended for the EPA to:

  • Expand the rule’s coverage to include reactive chemicals, high and/or low explosives, and ammonium nitrate as regulated substances and to change enforcement policies for retail facilities
  • Enhance development and reporting of worst case and alternate release scenarios
  • Add new prevention program requirements, including automated detection and monitoring, contractor selection and oversight, public disclosure of information, and, for petroleum refineries, attributes of goal-setting regulatory approaches.

"The CSB has a statutory, congressionally mandated task to address the sufficiency of OSHA and EPA regulations," Moure-Eraso said. "That is a key obligation of the CSB, and I intend to continue pursuing this mandate vigorously."

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on the ISSSource website. ISSSource is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Joy Chang, Digital Project Manager, Control Engineering, 

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