New OSHA Inspection Program For Chemical Facilities

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Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

“Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers.”

The new NEP replaces OSHA’s 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program which covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard. The program’s inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP 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.

OSHA implemented a multi-year pilot NEP for PSM-covered facilities in July 2009 in an effort to reduce releases of highly hazardous chemicals. “During our pilot Chemical NEP we found many of the same safety related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry, which is also covered by the PSM standard,” said Michaels. “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.

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