A Sigh of Relief for Ammonia Retailers…For Now
If you heard a loud, collective sigh of relief recently, it may have been from anhydrous ammonia retailers, and if you’re one of those retailers, you know why! The retailers were told they wouldn’t have to implement the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard (at least for now). The reason for the reprieve? OSHA’s failure to follow federal rulemaking requirements.
Why is this a big deal? Well, a typical retailer would have struggled to implement the technical complexities of the PSM standard within the required 14 months, which would’ve subjected them to substantial OSHA penalties for non-compliance. In addition, PSM compliance would’ve required significant continuous financial investment, as well as a potential for increased personnel to handle the documentation and non-stop monitoring. To break this down a bit with an example…the simple task of replacing a valve that’s no longer manufactured would’ve required the revision of 11 sections of the 14-section PSM standard. Let me repeat that…11 sections!
So what happened? The court said that OSHA didn’t follow proper procedures (not the PSM Standard itself). In a nutshell, OSHA should have posted the proposed regulation changes for public comment and followed the procedures such a comment period usually entails. It did not. Instead, OSHA issued an enforcement memorandum on July 22, 2015, in an attempt to remove an exemption anhydrous ammonia retail facilities enjoy to the agency’s process safety management, or PSM, standard.
Now the question becomes, “Will OSHA follow through with the required federal rulemaking procedure establishing PSM as law or will OSHA table it for now?” It’s a great question with an unknown answer at the moment.
I know, I know. If you’re an anhydrous ammonia retailer, you’re probably thinking, “So where does this leave me?” We recommend following these three steps to not only remain a steward of your environment but also to better position yourself should the PSM Standard become a reality:
- Maintain sound engineering practices to appropriately contain ammonia kept on hand
- Follow the required preventive maintenance procedures recommended by your containment system’s manufacturer
- Diligently train and enforce the safe handling procedures
Again, what happens next is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure we’ll be keeping an eye on this issue and letting you know if there are any changes. Until that time, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of our staff by either commenting below or emailing/calling us directly with questions!
Published on: 03.13.17