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June 17, 2016
Webinar wrap-up: RMP Updates

Back in March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed significant changes to the chemical accident prevention provisions, commonly referred to as the Risk Management Program (RMP). In a recent webinar, Risk Management Plan Updates: A Guide to Regulatory Compliance in Advance of EPA's Final Rule, speaker Natalie VanLiew, PE, Managing Consultant at Trinity Consultants, discussed the major changes in the regulations, some smaller changes that could have large impacts, and what to expect in the upcoming months.

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In the wake of the 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas, that killed 15 people, injured hundreds, and caused widespread damage, President Obama issued Executive Order (EO) 13650, which  set into motion actions by numerous government agencies designed to enhance the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks that hazardous chemicals pose to owners and operators, workers, and communities.  In addition to enhancing cooperation and information sharing among federal agencies and state and local authorities, the activities stemming from EO 13650 included modernizing key regulations, such as EPA’s RMP and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) Program.  The EPA proposed changes to the RMP regulations on March 14, 2016.

Major changes

During the webinar, VanLiew detailed the following major proposed changes to the regulations under 40 CFR 68, and identified specific topics that received a lot of attention during the public comment period:

  • Safer Technology and Alternatives Analysis (STAA), which will require certain facilities to consider inherently safer technology or design as part of the process hazard analysis;
  • Third-party audit requirements for any accident that meets the criteria for inclusion in the 5-year accident history. VanLiew also discussed the issues surrounding auditor qualifications and the final audit report that generated significant public comments;
  • Incident investigation requirements, including identifying the root causes of the incident;
  • Emergency response planning and coordination requirements, including annual notifications as well as field and tabletop exercises; and
  • Information availability requirements, which is another issue identified as receiving significant public comments.

Small changes, large impact

While the aforementioned major changes are getting much of the attention, VanLiew highlighted several smaller, less-talked-about issues in the proposed regulations that may have a significant impact on how you implement and comply with RMP requirements at your facility.  For example, Program Level 3 processes are currently required to compile “written process safety information before conducting any process hazard analysis” (PHA), but the amendments require that information to be kept up to date, not just updated before conducting a PHA.

VanLiew also pointed out that training requirements have been broadened.  Program Level 2 training requirements expand from “each employee presently operating a process” to “each employee presently involved in operating a process,” which makes it identical to the current Program Level 3 requirements, Also, the definition of “employee” is expanded to include any supervisor responsible for directing operations.

In addition, VanLiew mentions numerous changes in the information required to be provided in incident reports and prevention plans that are part of the risk management plans for a given process.

What lies ahead

The webinar concluded with brief discussion of what was not included in the proposed RMP amendments, specifically no changes to the list of regulated chemicals.  VanLiew highlighted the fact that ammonium nitrate was not addressed but that it is being discussed as part of OSHA’s revision of their PSM regulations.  She stated that she believes OSHA may be proposing amendments to the PSM regulation later this year, which may prompt the EPA into a second round of RMP revisions.  

So stay tuned, as various agencies continue to revamp the regulations affecting chemicals at your facility.
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