- Standard Number:
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 https://www.osha.gov.
January 29, 1996
Mr. Kau, Chin-Cheng
21 Fl, No. 77, Sec.2, Tun-Hwa South Road
Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Dear Mr. Kau:
Thank you for your letters of November 9, 1995, addressed to the Office of the Solicitor and the Allentown Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your correspondence details your interest and that of the Council for Labor Affairs to learn more about the process safety management regulations and directives that we have here in the United States.
As a result of several devastating industrial chemical explosions, and based on years of gathering scientific evidence to support such a regulation, a final standard for "Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals" (PSM) was promulgated in February, 1992 (see attached). This regulation, which had the strong support of businesses and employee unions alike, requires employers to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with highly hazardous chemicals, as defined by their flammability, toxicity, and explosive potential. The standard requires that employers use a process hazard analysis to determine the potential for, and the subsequent response to, chemical incidents in these workplaces. The standard describes in detail what employers are required to do, but is flexible as to how employers comply.
To assist employers in complying with the PSM rule, OSHA wrote a directive in September, 1992, and updated it in September, 1994. Both documents are also attached. The directives also assist OSHA's own compliance staff with understanding the technical intricacies and requirements of the standard, and include the qualification, background and training requirements for OSHA compliance officers who conduct PSM inspections.
The advantages of a process safety management standard are considerable. Using the PSM standard and directives, the agency is able to assist employers who know that an engineering management approach in the chemical industry will prevent deaths and injuries. When necessary OSHA can also use its statutory authority to enforce the regulations and issue citations against employers who do not establish programs to prevent such chemical incidents. Note also that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promulgating a compatible rule addressing catastrophic releases which endanger the environment.
We appreciate your interest in the Occupational Safety and Health Admnistration. Please contact us if we can be of any further assistance.
John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs