OSHA Continues Work on Proposed Updates to its Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard

January 18, 2023
Michael Dillon, Esq. and Technical Consultant Michael C. Nines, P.E., LEED AP
MGKF Special Alert - Federal Forecast 2023

Since its publication over 30-years ago, OSHA’s PSM standard, 40 C.F.R. § 1910.119, has not been updated. That could change based on developments expected to occur in 2023. 

Employers are covered by the PSM standard when they have a process with a threshold quantity of a listed chemical or flammable material, or manufacture explosives or pyrotechnics.  The PSM standard requires a comprehensive management program that integrates technologies, procedures, and management practices to help assure safe and healthy workplaces.  A 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion at a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas focused attention on the shortcomings of PSM standard and led to an Obama-era Executive Order, which required OSHA to "identify issues related to modernizing the PSM standard."  

Since then, the Agency has published a Request for Information (RFI) and subsequently convened a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel to review potential changes needed to the PSM standard.  More recently in October 2022, OSHA held an informal stakeholder meeting and invited comments, following which a substantial set of comments from various stakeholders were received by OSHA, which are now under review.  During 2023, the Agency is expected to continue this review along with analysis of comments from the RFI and SBAR process.  

The potential changes to the scope of the current PSM standard that OSHA is considering include the following: clarifying the exemption for atmospheric storage tanks; expanding the scope to include oil and gas-well drilling and servicing; resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities; expansion of PSM coverage and requirements for reactive chemical hazards; updating and expanding the list of highly hazardous chemicals in Appendix A; amending paragraph (k) of the Explosives and Blasting Agents Standard (§ 1910.109) to extend PSM requirements to cover dismantling and disposal of explosives and pyrotechnics; clarifying the scope of the retail facilities exemption; and defining the limits of a PSM covered process.

Potential changes to the PSM standard that OSHA announced it is considering in the September 20, 2022 Federal Register announcement of the October meeting include the following revisions to the noted subsections of 40 C.F.R. § 1910.119:

  • Subsection (b) – add a definition of recognized and generally accepted as good engineering practices (RAGAGEP) and a definition of critical equipment;
  • Subsection (c) - strengthen employee participation and add stop work authority;  
  • Subsection (d) - require evaluation of updates to applicable RAGAGEP and continuous updating of collected information;
  • Subsection (e) - require formal resolution of Process Hazard Analysis team recommendations that are not utilized; require safer technology and alternatives analysis; clarification to require consideration of natural disasters and extreme temperatures in PSM programs;
  • Subsection (j) - add coverage of mechanical integrity of any critical equipment and clarification to better explain ‘‘equipment deficiencies;’’;
  • Subsection (l) – clarification to cover organizational changes;
  • Subsection (m) - require root cause analysis;
  • Subsection (n) - require coordination of emergency planning with local emergency-response authorities;
  • Subsection (o) - require third-party compliance audits, include requirements for employers to develop a system for periodic review of and necessary revisions to their PSM management systems, and require the development of written procedures for all elements specified in the standard identification of records required by the standard along with a records retention policy.

OSHA intends to finish analyzing comments received in November 2022 by the late Fall of 2023 in consideration of preparing a proposed rulemaking.