In response to the August 2012 Chevron petroleum refinery process fire, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (“CSB”) is preparing three reports. The first report, released in April 2013, identified factors that Chevron could have taken to prevent the accident. The second draft report, released for public comment on December 16, 2013, recommends changes to Process Safety Management (“PSM”) and (Risk Management Plan (“RMP”) regulations to help mitigate and prevent future chemical accidents.
The primary recommendation included in the second draft report is the change in focus from a reactive standard to a proactive system of regulations. The current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) PSM regulations, unchanged since their promulgation in 1992, have fourteen requirements for employers, but only two are goal-based requirements. The other twelve requirements require specific actions, but do not require employers to reduce their risks. Current PSM regulations do not require employers to reduce the risks associated with high hazard activities and do not require employers to submit safety programs for review by regulators. Additionally, the regulations are not flexible enough to adopt increasingly safer technologies and techniques.
CSB’s recommended “safety case regime” would require employers to create a safety case report for regulators detailing how the employer controlled major hazards and planned to reduce risks to “as low as reasonably practicable” (“ALARP”). CSB cites the Center for Chemical Process Safety’s ALARP definition as “a risk reduction goal, where risk reduction efforts are continued until the incremental effort to further reduce risk becomes grossly disproportionate to the level of additional risk reduction.” Regulators would be evaluate each safety case report and determine whether sufficient there was sufficient risk reduction before approving the safety case report. One advantage to ALARP is that there should be continuous risk reduction as new technologies and techniques are devised.
CSB is an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical accidents and recommends potential regulatory changes to OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency, but is unable to enact regulations independently. Public comments on the draft report will be accepted through January 3, 2014.
Chemical Safety Board, Draft Regulatory Report: Chevron Richmond Refinery Pipe Rupture and Fire, Report No. 2012-03-I-CA, December 2013