CSB Report calls for Preventative Inspections at Petroleum Refineries, Bolstering EPA and OSHA Efforts

Earlier this month, the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) issued a report calling for preventative inspections at petroleum refineries to prevent accidents and injuries. The report highlights the value of robust, preventative inspections and proactive regulators in minimizing process safety incidents. CSB, through the report, calls on California regulators to conduct preventative inspections and analyze facilities’ process safety history, including “near misses.” CSB also calls for California to require refineries to report process safety indicators. The conclusions of the CSB study may be used to support EPA and OSHA rulemakings on facility audits under Executive Order (EO) 13650. President Obama issued EO 13650 to improve worker safety at industrial plants.

EPA is undergoing a final rulemaking to update its Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule. The RMP rule implements Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act. Section 112(r) requires owners and operators of stationary sources that produce, process and store extremely hazardous substances to identify hazards that may occur with an accidental release of the substance(s), to minimize the potential consequences of an accidental release, and to design and maintain a safe facility. Owners and operators of these facility must also develop a risk management plan, which includes a five-year accident history, a prevention program and an emergency response program. As part of its updates to the RMP rule, EPA is considering mandated independent audits of all reportable releases and “near misses” to minimize the possibility of future incidents. A final RMP rule is expected from EPA this year.

OSHA is considering revising its Process Safety Management (PSM) rule to include new requirements for independent audits. The PSM rule regulates the management of highly hazardous chemical-related hazards, and requires facilities using such chemicals to provide safe workplaces. In recent years, and in response to EO 13650, OSHA has prioritized inspections of petroleum refineries and chemical facilities. Changes to the PSM rule requiring independent audits would reinforce these efforts.

For more information about the RMP and PSM rules, and for assistance in minimizing regulatory audit findings and implementing independent audits, please contact Bruce Pasfield, Elise Paeffgen, or any of the other members of our Environment, Land Use & Natural Resources practice team.