OSHA is currently accepting comments for proposed rulemaking. The proposal is for new Process Safety Management rules for the Explosives and Pyrotechnics Industries and comments will be accepted until September 23rd!
You might ask, “What is ‘Process Safety Management’?” That is a great question answered in Part 1 of this post click HERE to check it out!
The proposed regulations are expansive and, along with those items mentioned in Part 1, require that employers develop PHAs, SOPs, and Mechanical Integrity Plans. So welcome to Part 2 let’s get started.
Process Hazard Analyses (PHAs)
Among the proposed regulations is the requirement that all employers perform PHAs. OSHA defines PHAs as – “A systematic effort designed to identify and analyze hazards associated with the processing or handling of highly hazardous materials; and a method to provide information which will help workers and employers in making decisions that will improve safety.”
At its heart PHAs ares nothing more than identifying processes and identifying what hazards are present. OSHA states that PHAs “attempt to determine: the failure points, methods of operations, and other factors that potentially lead to accidents.”
Beyond that, OSHA’s best guidance on the subject was developed by The New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) under grant of OSHA. That document is 31 pages long and can be downloaded HERE. Most businesses have (at a minimum) dozens of processes. If you fail to identify a hazard within a process, that is a violation. If you fail to identify a process and the hazards it contains – violation. If you fail to document everything in accordance with those 31 pages of ‘guidance’ – violation.
Seven Steps to PHA Success
Here is a hypothetical – Fictional Enterprises makes Pyrotechnics. The manufacturing is complicated involving over 75 operations. – Each of these involves one process for purposes of a PHA. Operation 34 states – Technician will mix 3mL of Chemical X with 25cc of Explosive. Technician must then place the mixture in Centrifuge, spinning mixture for exactly 5 minutes at exactly 120 rpm. Fictional Enterprises wants to perform a PHA on Operation 34.
Step 1 – assembling the right team. OSHA stipulates that to perform a PHA your team, “should include engineers, operators, supervisors and other workers who have knowledge of the standards, codes, specifications…which apply to the process….” You assemble Mr. Engineer, Mrs. Supervisor, Ms. Technician, and Homer the technician who performs Operation 34. Your team proceeds to…
Step 2 – develop checklists of applicable regulations and safety standards. Your team examines Operation 34, finding 3 fire safety codes, 5 electrical ordinances, 9 chemical safety standards, and 122 other regulations which may be applicable to Operation 34. Developing the checklist was performed efficiently and only required 42 man hours to complete. The team moves to…
Step 3 – examine those regulations and determine the steps needed to ensure compliance with (or alternatively the non-applicability of) the standards. All of this must be documented and included in your PHA. Your team continues their efficiency requiring 115 man hours to finish. The team now begins…
Step 4 – performing “What If” evaluations. OSHA defines this as having, “a relatively loose structure” and “only [being] as effective as the quality of questions asked and the answers given.” Even with that precision guidance your team spends 100 man hours in brainstorming the possible “what ifs.” The team now moves to…
Step 5 – Hazard and Operability Study (HazOp). OSHA defines this as “a structured, systematic review that identifies equipment that is being used in a way that it was not designed to be, and which might create hazards or operational problems.” OSHA notes that this may require an additional “multi-skilled team.” This team must be familiar with, “piping and instrument diagrams” and have a competent understanding of “certain limitations and deviations in flow, temperatures, and pressures…” for your equipment.
Your team enlists the help of Supplier Engineer, Equipment Designer, and Senior Chemist. The team is efficient and prepared documentation for your PHA in only one week. The Team moves to…
Step 6 – Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA). OSHA defines this process as a “systematic study of the consequences of failure (breakdown) of certain operational hardware….” This is the only guidance provided and results in your team spending an additional week attempting to figure out the FMEA. The team moves to…
Step 7 – Fault-Tree Analysis. OSHA describes this as, “draw[ing] a picture (model) that shows what undesirable outcomes might result from a specific initiating event….” Or you make a flow chart of Operation 34, INCLUDING flow routes for if things go wrong. So instead of just having “Homer runs centrifuge for 5 minutes” you should also include what happens if Homer gets distracted by a certain round raspberry confection and lets the centrifuge spin for 19 minutes.
The team is fortunate to have Homer with them and subsequently maps out all the possible faults in only 97 man hours. Bringing your total time in completing the PHA for Operation 34 to over 800 man hours.
What’s wrong with this picture?
The first thing you probably noticed was just how many man hours it takes to complete the PHA for one operation. Good thing your company only has 74 more that need to be evaluated…
The next thing that creates a problem is the FMEA. OSHA provides very little guidance on FMEAs. This could mean they want you to use RAGAGEP but this is never stated. Given that OSHA is explicit in the other sections where they want RAGAGEP it might mean they have some specific standard in mind. However, if it exists, it is not provided.
Worse still would be if RAGAGEP is to be used –With Aerospace you must often perform FMEAs before you are certified to conduct business. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) has an excellent write up on their preferred methods for performing FMEAs. This method is one I am familiar with and find to be successful. Their write up can be found HERE. Interestingly, you will note that the ASQ methodology for FMEAs is very similar in description to what OSHA requires for the entire PHA.
This should be of significant concern to business owners because it muddies what OSHA wants. If they want you to refer to RAGAGEP the ASQ standard is undoubtedly one of the most thorough in the business. However, if you follow the ASQ methodology you will essentially have a PHA within a PHA. Alternatively, if OSHA wants you to use a specific standard – they do not provide it. In short the FMEA requirement’s lack of clarity puts employers in a catch 22.
Some readers may note that the PHA steps listed above are exactly what is already available in the above referenced guidance document. This is true and the next problem – the proposed regulations merely create an additional standard which can be cited as requiring employers to be compliant. So what was before a violation of one PHA requirement can now be a violation of two.
My final gripe before we continue is that OSHA expressly states their reason for promulgating these new regulations are several incidents which could have been prevented had PHAs or other measures been taken. These new requirements do not assist employers in being better able to conduct PHAs. Neither do they require employers who were previously unregulated to conform.
To the contrary, these new regulations will only serve to confuse businesses by telling them to comply with multiple but un-specified RAGAGEP standards. Confusing and redundant standards do not promote worker safety. They create a culture where employers who are unable to understand what OSHA wants merely give up. OSHA’s response continues to be “just fine them again” rather than actually finding ways to create safety standards that are clear, concise, and focused on the functional application of safe work practices.
In addition to the PHAs employers are also going to be re-required to create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and create Mechanical Integrity Plans.
SOPs, in brief (I promise).
Again, OSHA is only reiterating already promulgated rules on operating procedures. The only new provision is a couple of vague examples encouraging those in the explosive and pyrotechnics industries to look to RAGAGEP for particulars of their industry. It is also worth noting that as required by several other standards this standard would once again require employees be trained in the procedures and that employers document this training. However, the general requirements for procedures remain the same:
- Procedures must be written.
- must be clear
- must be available to all operators.
- must specify steps for
- normal operation.
- upset conditions
- temporary operations
- emergency shutdown
- must include Basic Safety Information
- must be certified annually for current-ness an adequacy.
- Recommended that they be reviewed before each use to verify the current version is in use.
Mechanical Integrity Plans (MIPs) –
OSHA’s requirements for Mechanical Integrity Plans are essentially PHAs used to evaluate equipment rather than processes. So instead of focusing on what an operator is doing you focus on how our example Centrifuge works, in great detail.
OSHA decided to also include an explicit RAGAGEP provision. So in addition to the extreme scrutiny that must be given within the PHA styled process, they also require “employers [to] identify the subset of RAGAGEP most appropriate for their process equipment, document in the MIP which protocols are to be followed, and ensure that inspection and testing is performed accordingly.” So stated in English, OSHA’s new standard is requiring employers to (1) figure out which standards apply to them; (2) write up how they decided this and how they are complying; and (3) ensure they are complying in the appropriate manner to the standards which the employer had to find themselves.
OSHA states, “employers are completely unfamiliar with  RAGAGEP references, consultation with a professional  is advised.” This can be roughly translated as OSHA saying, “Good luck complying!”
Closing Remarks (and the people rejoice)
This whole section of proposed regulation is a farce. It is an attempt by OSHA to satisfy an executive order by promulgating a new rule that says nothing more than “do our existing rules” and “find what rules apply and then follow them.” I cannot reiterate enough that this does not promote worker safety. No sane person wants their employees to be endangered. However, no employer can commit to thousands of man hours just to guess at whether they are being compliant with an OSHA Standard.
If your business is in the explosives or pyrotechnics industry I implore you to consider submitting an official comment to OSHA. OSHA is accepting comments through THIS FRIDAY, September the 23rd. Click HERE to submit a comment or download the proposed regulations. Comments made to these proposed rules really can affect OSHA’s actions!
Whether you are in the Explosives industry and would like to submit an official comment or you just want to make sure your business is compliant with existing OSHA requirements Prince Law Offices is happy to be of assistance. Just call 888-313-0416 to schedule an appointment.
Jonathan Moore served as Manager of Corrective Actions and Director of Corporate Compliance for an Aerospace Manufacturing Company. He now serves as Prince Law Offices in-house OSHA Consultant while attending law school at the Pennsylvania State University School of Law.