Monday, December 19, 2011

OSHA issues new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for chemical facilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a new National Emphasis Program* (NEP) for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

"Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers."

The new NEP replaces OSHA's 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program which covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program* establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA's process safety management (PSM) standard. The program's inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers' written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

OSHA implemented a multi-year pilot NEP for PSM-covered facilities in July 2009 in an effort to reduce releases of highly hazardous chemicals. "During our pilot Chemical NEP we found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry, which is also covered by the PSM standard," said Michaels. "As a result, we are expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals."

OSHA's Safety and Health Topics Web page on Process Safety Management contains information on PSM for general industry and construction, guidance on how to develop a process hazard analysis, and OSHA requirements for preventing the release of hazardous chemicals.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Small Businesses not to worry about GHS changes - Think Again!

OSHA's new Hazcom regulation to align with GHS is likely only a few weeks away. As this final rule approaches there are many small organizations that think they are too "small" to worry about the upcoming changes. Every business, construction site, healthcare facility, K-12, warehouse, office, and college campus, etc., in the United States that exposes workers to chemical hazards needs to pay attention to OSHA’s alignment with GHS. Alignment with these new regulations has much to do with your safety and the employees' safety. Some workplaces think they are either too small to be caught, or so large that they can afford any fines assessed.

Staying on top of relevant safety standards is simply the right thing to do, and for employers it is the minimum responsibility they have to their workers.

When it comes to GHS, staying compliant will not be terribly difficult. The most difficult part will probably be the hazard communication safety training; however, the benefits (a safer workforce) will greatly outweigh the costs.

The risk of not aligning with the new HCS is much greater than the cost of complying. As an example of the dangers of chemicals we look no further than an ammonia leak at a workplace in Rosemount, MN reported by SafetyNewsAlert:

A recent fatality serves as a reminder of the dangers present at facilities that use, store or transfer anhydrous ammonia.

One truck driver was killed and another was critically injured when ammonia leaked during a loading operation at CF Industries’ Pine Bend Terminal in Rosemount, MN.

The leak immediately killed 31-year-old Robert Shue and critically injured 56-year-old Roy Taylor.

Two law enforcement officers are being credited with saving Taylor’s life by pulling him 35 feet away from the location of the leak.

The ammonia leaked when a connection between a supply tank and a truck failed.

A driver had noticed a problem with the connection and tried to fix it. The connection broke, causing the leak. The leak was quickly cut off, but the ammonia escaped quickly, creating a toxic cloud that proved fatal.

The Pioneer Press reports that CF Industries has had no safety violations at any of its facilities in the last five years.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry named one of CF’s locations a Star work site. The program recognizes companies for putting systems in place to identify and eliminate safety hazards.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Facts on Aligning the Hazard Communication Standard to the GHS

  • Proposal to modify the HCS to align with the GHS: OSHA is proposing to modify the current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The HCS requires that chemical manufacturers and importers evaluate the chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to downstream employers and workers by putting labels on containers and preparing safety data sheets. Under the current HCS all employers must have a hazard communication program for exposed workers, including container labels, safety data sheets, and training.

  • GHS: The primary benefit of the GHS is to increase the quality and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and chemical users by adopting a standardized approach to hazard classification, labels and safety data. The GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Under the GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements and safety data sheets would have standardized format. This system was agreed on at an international level by governments, industry, and labor, and adopted by the UN in 2002 with a goal of 2008 for implementation.

  • Why modify the HCS: OSHA's proposal to adopt the GHS will not change the framework and scope of the current HCS but will help ensure improved quality and more consistency in the classification and labeling of all chemicals. This will enhance worker comprehension, resulting in appropriate handling and use of chemicals. The harmonized format of the safety data sheets will enable workers to access the information more efficiently. In addition, currently multiple labels and safety data sheets must often be developed for the same product when shipped to different countries. This creates a major compliance burden for chemical manufacturers and those involved in international trade, increasing the cost of providing hazard information. The adoption of GHS will minimize this burden.

  • Major proposed changes to the HCS:
    • Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
    • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
    • Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
    • Information and training: The GHS does not address training. However, the proposed HCS will require that employees are trained within two years of the publication of the final rule to facilitate recognition and understanding of the new labels and safety data sheets.

  • Number of workers affected by the proposed HCS: Over 40 million workers

  • Affected Industries: Over 5 million workplaces

  • Impact of the proposed HCS: The costs associated with compliance with the proposed revisions to the HCS would generally be incurred by the affected industries as one-time transition costs over the phase-in period of three years. The cost includes reclassification of all chemicals, additional training of workers on the new label elements and SDS format, and familiarization of the modified HCS standard. Aside from the transition costs, the ongoing annual compliance costs associated with the proposed revisions to the HCS generally are expected to be the same or lower than under the existing standard.

  • Annualized compliance costs of the proposed standard: Approximately $97 million per year
    • OSHA estimates that the cost of classifying chemical hazards in accordance with the GHS criteria and revising safety data sheets and labels to meet new format and content requirements would be $11 million a year on an annualized basis for an estimated 90,000 establishments.
    • OSHA estimates that training for workers to become familiar with new warning symbols and the revised safety data sheet format under GHS would cost $44 million a year on an annualized basis for all affected workplaces.
    • Although not a requirement in the proposed rule, OSHA estimated annualized costs of $42 million a year for management to become familiar with the new GHS system and to engage in other management-related activities as may be necessary for industry's adoption of GHS

  • Benefits of the proposed standard: OSHA estimates that the revised standard will prevent 43 fatalities and 585 injuries and illnesses annually. The annualized monetized benefits associated with these reductions in safety and health risks are an estimated $266 million a year. OSHA estimates additional annualized benefits of $585 million a year from cost reductions and productivity improvements attributable to the proposed revisions. In total, OSHA estimates that the proposed revisions will provide net annualized savings of $754 million a year.

  • Comment Period: OSHA is allowing 90 days for the comment period. Interested parties can submit their comments by mail, facsimile or electronically. OSHA welcomes questions on all relevant issues of this proposed rulemaking including hazard classification, economic impacts and specifically impacts on small businesses, other affected standards, outreach, and finally alternative approaches.

  • Public Hearings: OSHA will be conducting informal public hearings and will publish a separate federal register notice on the date and location(s) for the hearings.

  • Major Stakeholders: Comments for the ANPR were received from a broad range of stakeholders. The comments were received primarily from chemical manufacturers, users and trade associations. Other interested parties are government (federal, state and local), emergency responders, transporters, unions, consultants, individuals, and others.

  • Future updates of the HCS: The GHS is updated as necessary to reflect new technology and scientific developments, or provide explanatory text. This proposed rule is based on Revision 3, published in 2009. OSHA anticipates that future updates of the HCS will be necessary and can be done through various rulemaking options:
    • Technical updates: for minor terminology changes
    • Direct Final Rules: for text clarification
    • Notice and Comment rulemaking: for more substantive or controversial updates such as additional or changes in health or safety hazard classes or categories

  • Other U.S. Agencies: The Department of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) were actively involved in developing the GHS. DOT has already modified their requirements for classification and labeling to make it consistent with international UN transport requirements and the GHS.