The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published amendments to the Risk Management Program Rule (RMP) on December 21, 2016, which will go into effect in 60 days. Those amendments will impose significant new burdens on employers that will translate into new obligations related to health and safety of employees. OSHA is currently considering amendments to the sister to EPA’s RMP Rule, the Process Safety Management Standard (PSM).

Prompted in part by the 2013 explosion of a fertilizer warehouse in West, Texas, the amended RMP Rule flowed from Section 6(a)(i) of Executive Order 13650, that required that certain Federal agencies develop options for improved chemical facility safety and security that identify “improvements to existing risk management practices through agency programs, private sector initiatives, Government guidance, outreach, standards, and regulations.” The major provisions of these amendments to the RMP Rule include several changes to the accident prevention program requirements, as well as the emergency response requirements, and public availability of chemical hazard information.

Accident Prevention Program Requirements

The changes to the accident prevention program requirements include three changes.

  • First, the amendments require all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to conduct a root cause analysis as part of an incident investigation of a catastrophic release or an incident that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release (i.e., a near-miss).
  • Second, the amendments require regulated facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes to contract with an independent third-party, or assemble an audit team led by an independent third-party, to perform a compliance audit after the facility has an RMP reportable accident.
  • Third, paper manufacturing facilities, petroleum and coal product manufacturing facilities, and chemical manufacturing facilities will be required to conduct a safer technology and alternatives analysis (STAA) as part of their process hazard analysis (PHA), and to evaluate the practicability of any inherently safer technology (IST) identified.

Emergency Response Requirements

In direct response to the West, Texas, fertilizer explosion, the amendments related to emergency response requirements, impose a burden on employers to provide significant information to local response organizations. Owners or operators of all facilities with Program 2 or 3 processes are required to coordinate with the local emergency response agencies at least annually to determine how the source is addressed in the community emergency response plan and to ensure that local response organizations are aware of the regulated substances at the source, their quantities, the risks presented by covered processes, and the resources and capabilities at the facility to respond to an accidental release of a regulated substance.

Likewise, annually, these locations are to conduct notification exercises annually to ensure that their emergency contact information is accurate and complete. This requirement also imposes an obligation to conduct tabletop and field exercises on the owners and operators of such facilities above and beyond those already required by the RMP rules.

Public Meeting Requirement

Finally, as relates to public availability of chemical hazard information, the amended rules require all facilities to hold a public meeting for the local community within 90 days of an RMP reportable accident. This is a massive change that will almost certainly create public relations headaches for the operators of these facilities.