In the wake of a deadly explosion earlier this year, OSHA is asking for input on updating several standards, including the agency's process safety management (PSM) regulation. Comments are due by March 10, 2014.

In a 13-page request for information (RFI), posted in the Federal Register on December 9, OSHA asked for information and data on specific rulemaking and policy options related to modernizing the standards to prevent major chemical accidents.  Besides PSM, those standards involve explosives and blasting agents, flammable liquids, spray finishing materials and associated enforcement practices.

The RFI seeks answers to 85 sets of questions on 17 issues OSHA has identified as possible candidates for rulemaking or enforcement policy changes.  Most deal specifically with the PSM standard and include updating a list of highly hazardous materials and adding more managementsystem requirements.  Other questions concern expanding the scope of the standard to include reactivity hazards, mechanical integrity of safety-critical equipment and dismantling and disposing of explosives, blasting agents and pyrotechnics.  In addition, OSHA wants input on requiring third-party compliance audits.

The initiative is driven by Executive Order 13650, issued by the President in August.  That directive was spurred, in turn, by a fire and explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. ammonium nitrate storage and distribution facility in Texas in April that killed at least 15 people, including many firefighters. The facility was not covered by PSM.  However, “it is a stark example of how potential modernization of the PSM standard may include such facilities and prevent future catastrophe,” OSHA said in the RFI.

Companies covered by any of the standards under possible review should consider submitting comments.  Defining a position is helpful to OSHA in any rulemaking and could be important should there be litigation over a subsequent agency proposal.