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OSHA Program Targets Chemical Plants

Friday, December 2, 2011

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Facilities that process and store chemicals will face heightened federal scrutiny, including more surprise inspections, under a new safety program designed to prevent catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

 Bostik plant
Adhesives maker Bostik was fined nearly $1 million for serious Process Safety Management lapses that led to a March explosion in Massachusetts.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new PSM Covered Chemical Facilities National Emphasis Program (NEP) expands and makes permanent a pilot program that OSHA has been running since July 2009. The pilot program increased inspections of facilities at risk of catastrophic chemical releases.

The program does not cover petroleum refineries.

Expansion Changes

The new program expands the regional pilot to all OSHA regions and state plans, but reduces the number of planned inspections per area office. Inspections must be conducted by compliance safety and health officers with significant industry and/or OSHA experience.

OSHA says the intent is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

Targeted workplaces are those covered by OSHA’s 1994 Instruction CPL 02-02-045, Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals – Compliance Guidelines and Enforcement Procedures.  

That directive followed several catastrophic chemical releases worldwide.

PSM Violations

Several coatings industry-related companies have recently faced significant fines for PSM lapses that led to explosions at facilities nationwide.

In September, global sealant and adhesive giant Bostik Inc. was fined $917,000 for 50 violations related to an explosion March 13 in Middleton, MA.

In November, AkzoNobel Surface Chemistry was fined $63,000 for a variety of serious violations involving a toxic chemical release in May in Illinois.

Also in November, Momentive Performance Chemicals was fined $81,000 for an explosion and flash fire that severely burned two employees in May.

‘Too Many Killed’

“Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA Administrator.

“This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers.”

Michaels said the pilot PSM program had revealed “many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry.”

He added: “As a result, we are expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals.”

OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics Web page on Process Safety Management contains information on PSM for general industry and construction, guidance on how to develop a process hazard analysis, and OSHA requirements for preventing the release of hazardous chemicals.

Chemical Manufacturers Respond

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates has maintained regular communication with OSHA throughout its development of the program.

“Our members, who are predominantly small- and medium-sized chemical manufacturers, are aware of the nationwide NEP and are prepared for it,” association spokeswoman Christine Sanchez told BNA, an information service owned by Bloomberg.

“We are confident that our members will continue to perform well in the inspections.”


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Chemical Plants; Explosions; Fatalities; Health and safety; Momentive Performance Materials; OSHA; Petrochemical Plants; Violations

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