New OSHA Program Targets Workplaces With Hazardous Chemicals

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Facilities that could potentially release highly hazardous chemicals resulting in toxic fire or explosion hazards are the focus of a national emphasis program (NEP) developed by the U.S. Department of Labor‘s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard. The Chemical NEP, a one-year pilot program, outlines a new approach for compliance officers who conduct site inspections. The program’s inspection process includes asking detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verifying that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct quick inspections at a large number of facilities that will be randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard. “Several catastrophic incidents have been caused by failure to comply with the requirements of the PSM standard,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. “This situation has resulted in loss of workers’ lives. This national emphasis program allows OSHA inspectors to verify that employers are complying with the requirements of the PSM standard.” During its first year, the Chemical NEP will be piloted in several regions around the country, using programmed inspections. Programmed inspections are planned and do not result from an accident, complaint, or referral. In regions not covered by the pilot, the Chemical NEP will be used to inspect workplaces reporting PSM-related complaints, referrals, accidents, or catastrophes, that is, unprogrammed inspections. A description is available here.

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