OSHA has just published a Standard Interpretation (Interpretation) to provide guidance on the enforcement of the Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard’s “recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices” (RAGAGEP) requirements, including how to interpret “shall” and “should”  language in published codes, standards, published technical reports, recommended practices, and similar documents.

According to the Interpretation, the PSM Standard, 29 CFR 1910.119, references or implies the use of RAGAGEP in three provisions:

  • (d)(3)(ii):  Employers must document that all equipment in PSM-covered processes complies with RAGAGEP;
  • (j)(4)(ii):  Inspections and tests are performed on process equipment subject to the standard’s mechanical integrity requirements in accordance with RAGAGEP; and
  • (j)(4)(iii): Inspection and test frequency follows manufacturer’s recommendations and good engineering practice, and more frequently if indicated by operating experience.

In addition, (d)(3)(iii) addresses situations where the design codes, standards, or practices used in the design and construction of existing equipment are no longer in general use.

The Interpretation indicates that while the PSM Standard does not define RAGAGEP, the Refinery National Emphasis Program (CPL 03-00-010) references the definition found in the Center for Chemical Process Safety’s (CCPS) Guidelines for Mechanical Integrity Systems:

“Recognized And Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices” are the basis for engineering, operation, or maintenance activities and are themselves based on established codes, standards, published technical reports or recommended practices or similar documents. RAGAGEP detail generally approved ways to perform specific engineering, inspection or mechanical integrity activities, such as fabricating a vessel, inspecting a storage tank, or servicing a relief valve.

The Interpretation mandates that as used in the PSM Standard, RAGAGEP will apply to process equipment design, installation, operation and maintenance, inspection and test practices, and inspection and test frequencies.  “RAGAGEP must be both ‘recognized and generally accepted’ and ‘good engineering’ practices.”

For employers, this new Interpretation advances yet another layer of OSHA investigation into the PSM processes, policies, programs, and training systems that must be developed and maintained.  OSHA’s heavy reliance on industry and manufacturer guidelines creates a series of complicated factual and legal issues for covered employers.

OSHA’s acceptance of employer based and developed REGAGEP is now in question. Employers should review their PSM processes and equipment to ensure that they will comply and/or be prepared to defend themselves where they depart from this latest Interpretation.