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OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.
October 30, 1992
Mr. Michael Baly, III
American Gas Association
1515 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, Virginia 22209
Dear Mr. Baly:
This is in response to your letter of August 18, requesting a decision from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on whether our final rule on Process Safety Management (PSM) applies to natural gas distribution and transmission facilities.
It has long been OSHA's position that the agency cannot issue a Section 4(b)(1) exemption for an entire industry. Additionally, both the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) and the courts have rejected the industrywide exemption concept. However, this does not mean that certain specific work operations may not be determined to be outside OSHA jurisdiction, given the proper circumstances.
On October 1, OSHA staff met with their counterparts from the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) to discuss OPS regulations vis-a-vis PSM. OPS staff gave generously of both their time and expertise. They outlined their current regulations, as well as proposals which are in various stages of the rulemaking process.
As a result of that meeting, and following our review of OPS regulations, OSHA has concluded that current OPS regulations address the hazards of fire and explosion in the gas distribution and transmission process. Accordingly, OSHA has determined that the agency is precluded from enforcing the PSM rule over the working conditions associated with those hazards.
Today's interpretation addresses only the applicability of the PSM standard to the gas transmission or distribution process as noted above; it does not address the applicability of the OSHA standards other than PSM, or the applicability of OSHA requirements to operations other than those described above. For example, natural gas processing facilities, in our view, would be subject to OSHA coverage notwithstanding today's interpretation. Finally, it should be noted that employers not subject to particular OPS requirements remain fully subject to OSHA requirements including the PSM standard.
Should current OPS requirements regarding hazards in gas transmission or distribution operations be repealed or modified by Congress or by OPS, it would be necessary for OSHA to revisit this issue. However, as long as current OPS rules and requirements remain in effect, OSHA will not seek to enforce the PSM standard against employers who are subject to OPS requirements with respect to fire or explosion hazards in connection with gas transmission or distribution.
Thank you for bringing the concerns of your membership to our attention. If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Dorothy L. Strunk
Acting Assistant Secretary