Heads up Texas and Louisiana facilities!

OSHA Resumes Regular Enforcement in Texas and Louisiana.

DALLAS, TX – On Oct. 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which had ceased most programmed enforcement actions following Hurricane Harvey, resumed normal enforcement throughout Texas and Louisiana.

Following Hurricane Harvey, OSHA provided compliance assistance and outreach to employers and workers in a number of counties and parishes in Texas and Louisiana. This action enabled OSHA’s staff to provide faster and more flexible responses to hazards facing workers involved in the cleanup and recovery operations. Thousands of crews and individual workers received job safety and health technical assistance. OSHA retained the right to inspection cases involving fatalities, catastrophic accidents, employee complaints, and employers who repeatedly exposed employees to serious hazards during cleanup and recovery operations.

“We are now able to resume regular enforcement operations in most of the impacted areas,” said OSHA’s Region VI Administrator Kelly Knighton. “For those areas most heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey, we will continue to provide employers and workers with compliance assistance and outreach. We will be monitoring these areas closely, and as they transition from cleanup and recovery to normal operations so will OSHA’s enforcement.”


RAGAGEP Hierarchy in Application – A worked example

RAGAGEP (Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices/Principles) is extremely important to our Process Safety programs as it helps define the boundaries of what is (and isn’t) acceptable in our processes and our management of them. There seems to be some confusion in a significant portion of the industry as to how to practically apply RAGAGEP* so I thought a brief discussion (and worked example) might be useful.

Let’s say that we have multiple possible RAGAGEP’s for a single item – such as relief valve replacement schedule. Those multiple RAGAGEP’s may well have differing requirements so we will need to rank them to understand what we actually need to do. Here’s an example RAGAGEP listing from OSHA:

  1. Codes adopted by the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) such as IMC/UMC
  2. Consensus Standards such as IIAR or ASHRAE
  3. Non-consensus documents such as Pamphlets / Bulletins from industry organizations
  4. Internal Standards such as your corporate policy

What isn’t on that list is manufacturer’s recommendations and there’s a reason why. The things listed above set the RAGAGEP and the manufacturer’s recommendations can modify it.**

There are generally two ways to modify something: make it more or less restrictive.

More: In the event that the manufacturer gives you a recommendation that is more restrictive (conservative) than the RAGAGEP, you must*** accept that more restrictive recommendation.

Less: If the manufacturer gives you a recommendation that is less restrictive than the RAGAGEP, you can accept that less restrictive recommendation, but you will need to document why you believe that the manufacturer’s recommendation is superior to the existing RAGAGEP.

In a recent article, we discussed the replacement schedule for a relief valve that relieves back into the system. The codes reference the consensus standards, which in turn reference some non-consensus bulletins. The bulletin in question, IIAR B110 says that these valves are not subject to the 5yr changeout frequency that other relief valves are. Yet, we have an email from the manufacturer’s engineering department that still recommends the 5yr changeout schedule.

In this case, we have a disagreement between the non-consensus bulletin and the manufacturer’s recommendation. Put another way, we have a generic recommendation on relief valve changeout versus a manufacturer specific recommendation. Obviously, the manufacturer’s specific recommendation on their valves overrides the generic recommendation about all relief valves. Therefore, as long as we are going to use these specific valves, we need to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. ***

*It’s important to understand that we’re talking about what RAGAGEP decision is the most defensible during an inspection / audit.

** In 1910.119(j)(4)(iii) manufacturer’s recommendations are explicitly called out in conjunction with good engineering practices to set inspection/testing frequency, but the point still holds true.

*** It’s theoretically possible that you can make the engineering case that you know more about the manufacturer’s equipment as it operates in your process than they do, so you can override their recommendation. One method that’s routinely used is to choose an alternative way to achieve the same goals – one where you can show the engineering rationale to prove your alternative is as safe or safer. A common example of that would be replacing the oil based on regular oil analysis rather than changing it out at a specific hour interval. Of course, such a change would have to be thoroughly documented through your Management of Change procedure.

Forklift Fatality

“A 58-year-old Hispanic lumberyard worker died on March 30, 2012, from crushing injuries received when a forklift driven by a coworker struck him. The lumberyard laborer was walking from his work area to the employee lunchroom. At the same time, and in the same area, a coworker was operating a forklift that was loaded with lumber. The forklift operator’s field of vision was limited because he was transporting the lumber “load-forward” and the load partially obscured his view. He did not see the laborer but stopped when he felt the forklift roll over something. He exited the cab and found the laborer unresponsive, lying near the left side of the forklift. The laborer was pronounced dead at the scene. The medical examiner identified head and thoracic injuries as the cause of death.”NIOSH FACE

This unfortunate incident is not Process Safety related, but MANY NH3 processes are located in Cold Storages and Food plants that have MANY forklifts. If YOU work in such a place, please share this information with your co-workers and Occupational Safety team. Hopefully, sharing it can serve as a reminder that you shouldn’t drive forklifts with an obstructed view.

The Cyrus Shank LQ Series Relief Valves – A Discussion on Manufacturer’s Recommendations and the 5 Year Pressure Relief Valve Interval

Many facilities I’ve been to recently use the Cyrus Shank LQ Series valves for internal/liquid relief applications. At these facilities, there tends to be some confusion on the 5-year replacement schedule since these are internal relief valves but still come with a replacement date tag.

Allow me to explain the conflict here:

Back in 2007, the IIAR issued a revision to their Bulletin 110 (Start-up, Inspection and Maintenance of Ammonia Mechanical Refrigerating Systems) which clarified the current standard on replacing or recertifying pressure relief devices. It states that you have 3 options for setting your relief valve replacement schedule:

  1. Every five (5) years from the date of installation. IIAR originally recommended (in 1978) that pressure relief valves be replaced every five years from the date of installation. This recommendation represents good engineering practice considering the design and performance of pressure relief devices; or
  2. An alternative to the prescriptive replacement interval, i.e., five years, can be developed based on documented in-service relief valve life for specific applications using industry accepted good practices of relief valve evaluation; or
  3. The manufacturer’s recommendations on replacement frequency of pressure relief devices shall be followed.

It’s a fairly straightforward list that led to both facilities and manufacturers setting a replacement schedule not to exceed 5 years unless conditions warranted earlier replacement of the devices. The major follow-up question for schedulers is what to do with internal or liquid relief valves, since they’re not usually subject to the same concerns as atmospheric relief valves.

The same IIAR bulletin covers this as an exception to the previous recommendation, stating that:

“Relief devices discharging into another part of the closed-loop refrigeration system are not subject to the relief valve replacement practices.”

Internal relief devices come in many configurations, so relief valves designated for liquid use are normally treated the same as relief regulators or similar devices in that they aren’t replaced until a regular inspection (or system operation) indicates the need.

Generally speaking, when we set our mechanical integrity schedule we first check the standards (IIAR Bulletin 110 in this case) and then modify that schedule based on the manufacturer’s recommendations for our specific equipment. The issue that occurs here is that the Cyrus Shank bulletin issued for their relief valves recommends that they be replaced at least every five years, without specifying which type. After contacting Cyrus Shank, their engineering department responded with the following:

“The cut sheet is a general recommendation that would apply to all of our valves, including the LQ valves. There is one difference between the vapor service valves and the liquid (LQ) ones: the LQ valves have a slightly different sealing ‘surface’ as compared to the vapor. Other than that, they are essentially the exact same in design. The replacement/inspection intervals greatly depend on the nature of the contents and operation of the system so only general recommendations can be given.  We would still recommend the general 5 year replacement interval for both the vapor AND liquid service valves regardless of application. However, the replacement interval is ultimately up to the customer. “

To be consistent with the other justifications in our (manufacturer recommendations based) mechanical integrity schedule, that means that we’ll be replacing those LQ Series valves at least every five years as well. It’s important when setting up a compliant program that we stay informed of all the different RAGAGEP sources that can affect our program. The exception in IIAR Bulletin 110 actually does allow us to set our schedule based on a method of our choosing, but our justification must be defensible. Our defense normally comes from the manufacturer recommendation, so in this case we would have to follow the 5-year recommendation on LQ valves as our RAGAGEP.

10/10/17 Update: Some people have suggested that statements from Cyrus Shank marketing materials somehow override the statements of the Cyrus Shank engineering department. This is absurd and a fundamental misunderstanding of RAGAGEP. If the Cyrus Shank engineering department changes their position then this issue can be re-evaluated, but until then it remains as shown above.

For more on this topic, click here.



PHA Template Revisions

The Template What-If / Checklist worksheet used to guide PHA Studies has been modified.

  1. The Identification and Review of Past Incidents section has been renumbered with some new questions concerning the performance of the Incident Investigation element added before the example / industry What-If incident questions.
  2.  We’ve added a new 57-question Revalidation Considerations Checklist to the current list of What-If questions. This new section is to be used as an additional check on PHA revalidations.

These changes are available immediately to anyone using the Google Shared Drive.

Note: These additions are partially based on an EPA-provided example of typical questions asked during a PHA revalidation. It has always been our practice to FULLY revalidate the PHA by reviewing all the previous answers; however, during a revalidation, this new section should help highlight areas of the existing PHA study that demand extra attention.

Why we changed the name of our element “Guidelines” to “Written Plans”

In mid-february we changed every reference to Guideline in the example templates to Written Plan. This change was made to the Google Drive and logged on 2/3/17.

Although I have used the term guideline for a very long time, it was really just out of habit – it’s not an accurate reflection of the intent of those documents.

First: Where did this Guideline idea come from?

Well, it all started back in the Employee Participation element which requires you to have a document that explains how you intend to comply with certain requirements.

1910.119(c)(1) – Employers shall develop a written plan of action regarding the implementation of the employee participation required by this paragraph.

Over time we realized that these written plans of action were very useful and wrote them for every single PSM/RMP element. For whatever reason, the very first program I ever worked on called this the “Guideline for Employee Participation” and I just stuck with that wording for well over a decade.

Ok, so why call it a Written Plan rather than a Guideline?

Well, let’s look at definitions:

A dictionary definition of guideline is:

“General rule, or piece of advice”

The word plan defined in that same dictionary:

“a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something;”

“an intention or decision about what one is going to do.”

The word plan is really what we are going for: A decision about what the facility is going to do. The intent of these documents, whether they are called Written Plan or Guidelines, was always to document the detailed plan that the facility intended to follow in achieving compliance.

Anything else?

Actually, yes. Over the years we had to explain the above to several different inspectors: our Guidelines were actually our written plans. Frankly, it just got annoying explaining the same concept over and over again – especially when they had a point: Rightly understood the documents really are the written plan and general guidance usually used the guidelines terminology such as the IIAR Compliance Guidelines and the CCPS Guidelines for Safe Process Operations and Maintenance.

Do I have to change my documents if I use the templates?

Well, no you never really have to update your program to reflect our changes. That said, Should you? Yes, you should make the change whenever you update your program to the latest templates.

What training does my refrigeration operator need?

Note: this article focuses only on the PSM/RMP training burden that is unique to PSM/RMP. Furthermore, it does not address the requirements of training documentation.

Understanding the requirements of PSM/RMP training for Operators

The Training element in PSM (1910.119(g)) and RMP (40CFR68.71) requires that your process operators involved in operating a process receive certain training. For me, the key word for our understanding is Operator which means to control the functioning of a machine, process or system. If they turn valves, operate physical or electrical controls, etc. they are likely Process Operators. It is important to remember that the term Process Operator is not a title – it is a function. A management employee that turns refrigeration valves, or restarts equipment after a power failure is a Process Operator by function even if their title is “Director of Warehousing.” This concept is so important, that it is one of our PSM Golden Rules:

8. Treat people by their function within the process, not their title.

This means that in facilities where Contractors are actually the Process Operators, this Operator Training section must apply to them – just as it would a similarly situated direct-hire employee. OSHA made this clear in 1992:

…should a contract employer provide employees to operate a process, then those employees would obviously have to be trained to the same extent as the directed hire employees “involved in operating a process” under paragraph (g) of the final standard.

Generally speaking, all OSHA standards cover all employees including contract employees. In something of a break with tradition, the process safety management rule has separate provisions covering the training of contract employees. This was done primarily for emphasis since contract employees make up a significant portion of some segments of industries covered by the final rule. This is not to say, however, that paragraph (h) is the only section of the process safety rule that applies to contractors. As already indicated, under appropriate circumstances, all of the provisions of the standard may apply to a contractor (i.e., a contractor operated facility). After all, employees of an independent contractor are still employees in the broadest sense of the word and they and their employers must not only follow the process safety management rule, but they must also take care that they do nothing to endanger the safety of those working nearby who work for another employer. Moreover, the fact that this rule has a separate section that specifically lays out the duty of contractors on the job site does not mean that other OSHA standards, lacking a similar section, do not apply to contract employers. (OSHA, PSM Preamble, 1992)

Training in this element that training is broken into two categories: Initial and Refresher.

Initial Training

Initial training is 1910.119(g)(1)(i) – “Each employee presently involved in operating a process, and each employee before being involved in operating a newly assigned process, shall be trained in an overview of the process and in the operating procedures as specified in paragraph (f) of this section. The training shall include emphasis on the specific safety and health hazards, emergency operations including shutdown, and safe work practices applicable to the employee’s job tasks

Initial Training is meant to cover the things Process Operators need to know to be involved in the covered process. It needs to cover an Overview of the Process as well as any specific Operating Procedures that the Process Operator is expected to perform.

One component of the Overview of the Process. Overview of the Process is simply how the covered process works. This understanding can be very basic or in-depth based on how much the Process Operator needs to know to safely perform the tasks assigned to them. This is the only component of the operator training requirements that is addressed by attending 3rd party classes (usually titled Refrigeration Operator) at a one-week school. I’m not discounting their value – I’m just pointing out that these schools do nothing to meet the other requirements of the training element. (Any honest school offering these classes will tell you this!)

This operator training must include a focus on:

  • Specific Safety and Health Hazards of the process and work on the process.
  • Emergency Operations and Shutdown.
  • Safe Work Practices (Like LEO & LO/TO) applicable to the employee’s job tasks.

It’s important to emphasize that this training is conducted before the operator actually performs these tasks independently. For a typical Ammonia Refrigeration Process Operator, these requirements would lead us to train, at a minimum, in the following areas:

  • Routine refrigeration system operation; an overview of the process.
  • Ammonia properties, safety and health hazards
  • SOP awareness including the requirement to follow written SOPs
  • Specific training in any SOP they are expected to perform such as the Overall System Operation SOP(s), which includes emergency and normal refrigeration system operation procedures.
  • Their individual role in the emergency response plan

In many programs, this is a level of Process Operator called Entry Level. Due to the increased use of Contractors in most Ammonia Refrigeration processes, many, if not most, Process Operators are never trained to reach higher levels of operator classification.

Refresher Training

1910.119(g)(2) – “Refresher training shall be provided at least every three years, and more often if necessary, to each employee involved in operating a process to assure that the employee understands and adheres to the current operating procedures of the process. The employer, in consultation with the employees involved in operating the process, shall determine the appropriate frequency of refresher training.” Note that this training is meant to reinforce the earlier emphasis on SOPs.

Refresher or Ongoing Training is a collection of activities designed to reach a certain Performance-Based goal: …To assure that the employee understands and adheres to the current operating procedures of the process.

The “understands” portion of the performance basis should have been handled by our Initial Training. The real question then is how we ensure Process Operators adhere to current operating procedures of the process. This is called Operational Discipline. Much of what we call Refresher Training is just reminding Process Operators about the importance of this Operational Discipline. An example Refresher Training schedule is below:

In addition to the above regularly scheduled and event-driven training, there should be some sort of verification that process tasks are being completed in accordance with the written procedures of the process. On a regular basis (usually at least annually) the Responsible Person should verify that qualified operators are adhering to the SOPs. This verification usually takes the form of observations while the operator performs their assigned work. These observations should be done without prior notification of the operator being evaluated.

While there is a requirement that Refresher Training occur at least every three years, and that the frequency of the training be decided in consultation with the Process Operators, an effective PSM/RMP Program is continuously Training and seeking consultation.

Employers, in consultation with employees, shall determine the appropriate frequency, which may be based on consideration of such factors as deviations from standard operating procedures, recent incidents, or apparent deficiencies in training. (OSHA, CPL 2-2.45A, 1994)

Mechanical Integrity (Maintenance) Training

1910.119(j)(3) – “Training for process maintenance activities. The employer shall train each employee involved in maintaining the on-going integrity of process equipment in an overview of that process and its hazards and in the procedures applicable to the employee’s job tasks to assure that the employee can perform the job tasks in a safe manner.”

In this section they are referring not to the SOPs so much as the written procedures required in 1910.119(j)(2) – “Written procedures. The employer shall establish and implement written procedures to maintain the on-going integrity of process equipment.”

The rule requires that there be written procedures on maintaining the integrity of the covered process and that the personnel performing these procedures be trained in those procedures. Most chemical and petroleum plants have one set of personnel to operate the plant and another to maintain it. Nearly all Ammonia Refrigeration systems have the same personnel operate and maintain the process, so most plants in our position combine these training requirements with the Operator Training requirements.

As OSHA indicated in the preamble, paragraph (j)(3) requires that employers provide maintenance employees with “on-going” or “continual” training adequate “to assure that they can perform their jobs in a safe manner.” In this regard, the paragraph clearly contemplates that new maintenance employees be trained before beginning work at the site, and all maintenance employees receive additional training appropriate to their constantly changing job tasks. (OSHA, CPL 2-2.45A, 1994)

Appendix C to the rule notes that the “employer needs to develop procedures to ensure that tests and inspections are conducted properly and that consistency is maintained even where different employees may be involved. Appropriate training is to be provided to maintenance personnel to ensure that they understand the preventive maintenance program procedures, safe practices, and the proper use and application of special equipment or unique tools that may be required. This training is part of the overall training program called for in the standard.” (OSHA, 29CFR1910.119, 1992)

Note that this includes contractors that are performing MI tasks on the covered process:

This training requirement applies to both host employer’s and contractor employer’s employees performing MI procedures. CPL 02-02-045, Appendix B, pg. B-27, states, “If contract employees are involved in…maintaining the on-going integrity of process equipment, then they must receive training in accordance with specific training requirements set forth in paragraphs (g) and (h), respectively”). (OSHA, Refinery PSM NEP, 2007)

What does a successful training program look like?

A successful Operator Training element will be one that:

  • Ensures the operators are aware of the procedures and will consistently apply those written procedures resulting in fewer process deviations.
  • Ensures the operators understand the process and the procedures so they are able to quickly correct those few deviations that do occur.

“An effective training program significantly reduces the number and severity of incidents arising from process operations, and can be instrumental in preventing small problems from leading to a catastrophic release.” (OSHA, CPL 2-2.45A, 1994)


Updated EPA rule officially delayed until at least February 2019

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will delay implementation of an Obama-era chemical safety rule for nearly two years while it reassesses the necessity of the regulation.

The EPA announced on Monday that Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a directive last Friday delaying the chemical plant safety standards until at least Feb. 20, 2019.

Source: The Hill

Visit us next week at the Global Cold Chain Alliance!

Yet another sign!

Many, moons ago when I was a volunteer firefighter, we came up with a slogan for our crew: Perfection is Our Goal. Excellence will be Tolerated.

Today, I turned that into a PSM sign if you are interested.

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