Update: Congressional Review Act & RMP Rule

The EPA’s RMP Rule update is NOT part of the initial 5 regulations that the House has decided to disapprove via the Congressional Review Act. (Bloomberg)

 

…and here it is!

US Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced Congressional Review Act legislation to revoke the US Environmental Protection Agency’s amended risk management programs rule amendments that became final on Jan. 13 and would go into effect on Mar. 14.

“Predictably, the Obama administration continued to issue harmful and overreaching regulations until the bitter end. EPA’s RMP rule is no exception,” he said on Feb. 2.

The program is intended to reduce the risk of accidental releases that could affect areas close to manufacturing plants, Mullin said. But EPA exceeded its jurisdictional limits by encroaching on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulated areas and making a rule final that not only fails to enhance safety, but may in fact compromise national security, he contended.

He introduced H.J. Res. 59 soon after the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, US Chamber of Commerce, and 18 other business groups asked leaders of the 115th Congress to use the CRA to disapprove EPA’s final risk management practices rule covering accidental chemical releases (OGJ Online, Jan. 26, 2017).

http://www.ogj.com/articles/2017/02/mullin-introduces-bill-to-revoke-epa-risk-management-programs-rule.html

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While there are Executive Branch delays to the EPA’s new RMP updates, another possibility is that congress can use the Congressional Review Act to nullify the changes. This week, a group of associations joined in a letter requesting exactly that.

Multi-Association Letter to Hill Leadership Urging CRA Resolution for EPA Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule

Dear Congressional Leaders:

As leading trade associations representing diverse sectors of the U.S. economy, we write to express our deep concern with a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule, Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs under the Clean Air Act (“RMP rule”).1 The final RMP rule not only imposes significant new costs without identifying or quantifying the safety benefits that will be achieved through these new requirements, it may actually compromise the security of our facilities, emergency responders, and our communities. For these reasons, we believe it is appropriate that Congress disapprove the final RMP rule under the Congressional Review Act.

Safety is the first priority of our members and a core value embedded in the culture of our industries. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms that our industries are among the safest in the United States. Our companies routinely go above and beyond regulatory requirements for safety programs, demonstrating a commitment to safety and expending the resources necessary to continually improve safety performance. Our industries have a history of open communication and partnership with the communities that surround our facilities as well as local, state, and federal authorities. Community Advisory Panels (CAPs) and Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) have been in place for more than three decades, and these partnerships continue to be the foundation for open communication, information sharing, and coordinated emergency planning and preparation in our communities while safeguarding specific security plans.

The current RMP regulations include requirements that have produced and will continue to drive continuous safety improvements, provide robust protection for our employees and the public, and are not in need of revision.

Unfortunately, EPA’s final RMP rule fails to identify any meaningful safety benefit and may actually increase security risks given the rule’s expanded public information disclosure requirements. It is not just industry that has this concern. White House Office of Management and Budget records show that during interagency review the Department of Homeland Security officials, and others, repeatedly raised security concerns with the RMP rule. In fact, one official stated that “[h]aving facilities share this information would be precedent setting—currently the [Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard (CFATS)], [Process Safety Management (PSM)], and [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)] (licensee/permittee) programs do not share this level of detail with the public due to security concerns.” As demonstrated in a Department of Justice report released prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is well known that terrorists have considered using chemical releases from facilities as a weapon. Federal regulations should not make it easier for sensitive information to wind up in the hands of criminals and terrorists.

Beyond security concerns, it is unclear what, if any, safety benefits the final RMP will provide. As you know, the risk management program is intended to reduce risk beyond a facility’s fence line, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Process Safety Management (PSM) program addresses risk within the fence line. Despite this clear legal distinction, the majority of the purported benefits from the EPA rule revisions come from OSHA-regulated areas within the fence line.

The lack of identifiable and quantifiable benefits stands in stark contrast to the clear costs associated with this rule. Whether it be the requirement of third-party auditor participation that will reduce the pool of qualified auditors, changing well-established audit procedures already designed to maximize safety effectiveness, or imposing ineffective requirements to consider “inherently safer technology/design,” the final rule includes a litany of costly changes that have not been shown to increase safety.

Our associations support sensible regulations that can be shown to improve safety and security. Unfortunately, the final RMP rule fails this basic test. For this reason, we recommend that Congress disapprove the regulation under the Congressional Review Act. Doing so will protect national security and allow EPA to reconsider what, if any, revisions to the RMP regulations are needed to reduce the risk of an accidental release. We stand ready to work with you and the incoming Administration on this important issue.

Sincerely,
Agricultural Retailers Association
American Chemistry Council
American Coatings Association
American Forest & Paper Association
American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers
American Petroleum Institute
Corn Refiners Association
Environmental Technology Council
The Fertilizer Institute
Global Cold Chain Alliance
International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses
International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration
International Liquid Terminals Association
Institute of Makers of Explosives
International Warehouse Logistics Association
Louisiana Chemical Association
National Association of Chemical Distributors
National Association of Manufacturers
Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The Vinyl Institute

(Link to PDF)

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OSHA replaces the ChemNEP inspection protocol

Since 2011, Ammonia Refrigeration facilities with 10,000lbs. or more of Anhydrous Ammonia have been subject to ChemNEP inspections under CPL 03-00-14. OSHA has replaced this program with a new program that makes some changes:

  • Merges the Petroleum and Chemical NEPs into a single Program1
  • Targets EPA Risk Management Program level 1 & 2 as well as Program 3
  • Requires “State Plan” adoption

The details of the new program are posted in the new CPL 03-00-021 which is available on the OSHA website or, if you use our templates, in the References section of the Google Drive shared folders. Here are some highlights of the new inspection program:

  • Ammonia Refrigeration (as the sole HHC) is a “Category 1” facility which is supposed to represent 25% of all PSM inspections.
  • If you have an additional covered chemical such as chlorine, the facility may also fall under “Category 4” which is supposed to represent 40% of all PSM inspections.
  • Directs OSHA CSHOs to access the facility’s EPA RMP database information before the inspection.
  • Inspection must include the host employer AND the contract employer
  • Inspection should review ALL OSHA inspection history and abatement verification – must review last six years worth.
  • Inspections will request documents are provided:

Documents Requested Prior to Identifying the Selected Unit(s):

* OSHA 300 logs for the previous three years for the employer and the process-related contractors.

* All contract employee injury and illness logs as required by 1910.119(h)(2)(vi).

* A list of all PSM-covered process/units in the complex.

* A list of all units and the maximum intended inventories of all chemicals (in pounds) in each of the listed units.
* A summary description of the facility’s PSM program.

* Unit process flow diagrams.

* Process narrative descriptions.

* Host employer’s program for evaluating contract employer’s safety information.

* Host employer’s program/safe work practices for controlling the entrance/exit/work of contractors and their workers in covered process areas.

* Emergency Action Plan; and Emergency Response Plan if the facility is also required to comply with 29 CFR 1910.120(q).

* Host employer’s program for periodically evaluating contractor performance.

Documents Requested After the Selected Units are Identified:

* Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) including legends.

* Unit electrical classification documents.

* Descriptions of safety systems (e.g., interlocks, detection or suppression systems).

* Design codes and standards employed for process and equipment in the Selected Unit(s).

* A list of all workers (i.e., hourly and supervisory) presently involved in operating the Selected Units(s), including names, job titles, work shifts, start date in the unit, and the name of the person(s) to whom they report (their supervisor).

* The initial process hazard analysis (PHA) and the most recent update/redo or revalidationfor the Selected Unit (s); this includes PHA reports, PHA worksheets, actions to address findings and recommendations promptly, written schedules for actions to be completed, and documentation of findings and recommendations.

* Safe upper and lower operating limits for the Selected Unit(s).

* A list by title and unit of each PSM incident report; all PSM incident reports for the Selected Unit.

* Contract employer’s safety information and programs (this will be requested from the host employer after it is determined which contractor(s) will be inspected).

* Contractor employer’s documentation of contract workers’ training, including the means used to verify employees’ understanding of the training (this will be requested from the respective contractor employer(s) after it is determined which contractor(s) will be inspected).

* Other documents as specified in the Dynamic Lists.

  • During the walk-around, the CHSO is to observe potential hazards including, but not limited to, pipe work at risk of impact, corroded or leaking equipment, unit or control room siting and trailer location, relief devices and vents that discharge to atmosphere, and ongoing construction and maintenance activities; and solicit input from workers / worker representatives / contract employees.
  • Inspections are focused on Dynamic List questions just like the ChemNEP. Failure to correctly address the questions from the list may broaden the inspection to areas outside the questions. When CSHOs expand the inspection beyond the Dynamic List, they can pull questions from:

* Prior ChemNEP Dynamic List questions
* Old Petroleum NEP (CPL 03-00-010) questions
* CPL 2-2.45 PQV (CPL 2-2.45a) questions
* CCPS Guidelines for Hazard Evaluation Procedures, 3rd Edition

Note that this guidance specifically includes the CCPS book “Guidelines for Hazard Evaluation Procedures, 3rd Edition” which focuses on PHAs. We have long counseled using the CCPS guidance to better understand what a successful PSM program looks like from both a design perspective as well as an implementation one.

Coupled with the EPA’s announcement that they have begun implementing their enforcement initiative, there has never been a better time to consider a thorough 3rd party Compliance Audit.

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Trump Regulatory Freeze likely to delay EPA RMP Updates

According to a memo from Reince Priebus ( Regulatory Freeze Memo 012017 ) the EPA RMP updates are likely to be delayed:

With respect to regulations that have been published in the OFR but have not taken effect, as permitted by applicable law, temporarily postpone their effective date for 60 days from the date of this memorandum, subject to the exceptions described in paragraph 1, for the purpose of reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise. Where appropriate and as permitted by applicable law, you should consider proposing for notice and comment a rule to delay the effective date for regulations beyond that 60-day period. In cases where the effective date has been delayed in order to review questions of fact, law, or policy, you should consider potentially proposing further notice-and-comment rulemaking. Following the delay in effective date: (a) for those regulations that raise no substantial questions of law or policy, no further action needs to be taken; and (b) for those regulations that raise substantial questions of law or policy, agencies should notify the OMB Director and take further appropriate action in consultation with the OMB Director.

As these regulations likely fall into category “b” above, we’ll have to see what “further appropriate action” consists of in the weeks and months ahead.

**012617 Update – EPA posted a memo on delayed implementation.

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2017 SOP Template Updates

The SOP reference element guideline and RESOP/ROSOP reference  templates have been updated for 2017. The changes are basically broken into two groups: Continuous Improvement and IIAR 7.

Continuous Improvement: As always, there are a lot of little change suggestions that have been built up over time that were expressed in different templates in slightly different ways. Here are some of the change highlights in this section:

  • Section breaks are all now 3pt and merged into a single cell.
  • Stray CG Times font text changed to the default Book Antiqua that is used everywhere else.
  • All RESOPs (and Appropriate ROSOPs) follow this section order:
    1. Normal Startup
    2. Monitor Normal Operations
    3. Emergency Operations
    4. Emergency Shutdown
    5. Manual Shutdown and Isolation
    6. Maintenance Procedure(s) such as Oil Draining and schedules MI tasks.
  • Startup steps were re-organized and harmonized between equipment types.
  • HOA/LOTO steps made more explicit and consistent.
  • Emergency Shutdown section easier to follow and harmonized between equipment types.
  • Added text referencing the Incident Investigation element in the Emergency Shutdown section.
  • Shutdown section now starts with an option to just STOP the unit using the control computer/panel and then provides steps to Isolate and pump it down.
  • Harmonized Operating Limits, Consequences of Deviation and Steps Required to Correct or Avoid Deviation between equipment types. These sections were also harmonized with consistent BOLDing of the relevant variable between the sections as appropriate.

IIAR 7: I have long bypassed IIAR 7 “Developing Operating Procedures for Closed-Circuit Ammonia Mechanical Refrigerating Systems,” preferring to use the CCPS “Guidelines for Writing Effective Operating and Maintenance Procedures.” While my reference templates still use the CCPS as their basis, I felt it necessary to perform a Gap-Analysis between the templates I’ve been using (and continuously improving) for over a decade and the requirements in IIAR 7-2013. This is especially important because the International Machine Code (IMC) has been updated to point to IIAR 2-2014 (Safe Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems) which references IIAR 7-2013. While I am still not calling IIAR7 RAGAGEP in my PSM programs, I wanted to ensure that the PSM program SOP(s) were compliant with it. While there were no significant changes necessary to make the templates more compliant with IIAR 7, some changes were necessary. Here’s what changes were required for IIAR 7 compliance:

  • Explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up
  • Updated checks during Normal Operations to ensure coverage of all the items listed in IIAR 7
  • Include Supervisory Notification during Shutdowns

For those of you who use these reference templates, they are available in the Google Share in a directory called “IIAR 7 Mods.” After a few months of trials and minor revisions, these templates will replace the existing templates in the main directory. The old templates will be rendered obsolete and moved to the 0bsolete directory.

If you have existing SOPs using the 2016 (or earlier) versions of the template, you will want to compare the new templates with your existing implementation. Please note: These new templates will be the basis for ALL future template modifications / updates.

Below is a list of ALL the changes made to the SOP template section.

  • SOP Guidelines
    • Modified Implementation Policy: Operating Phases: Temporary Operation to include an explanation that a Temporary Operation SOP would require an MOC which would involve supervisory oversight due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.2.3.1(a), 6.3.3.1(a), 6.5.3.1(a), 6.6.3.1(a), 6.7.3.1(a) & 6.8.3.1(a).
  • Compressor RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.2.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.2.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.2.4 & 6.2.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Condenser RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.3.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.3.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.3.4 & 6.3.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Air Unit RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.4.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.4.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.4.4 & 6.4.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Vessel RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.5.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.5.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.5.4 & 6.5.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Recirculating Vessel RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.5.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.5.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.5.4 & 6.5.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
    • Added reminder about documenting oil drained during the oil draining procedural section.
  • Heat Exchanger RESOP Template
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.4.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.4.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.4.4 & 6.4.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Autopurger RESOP Template(s)
    • Re-ordered startup steps to optimize efficiency
    • Added explicit reference to control alarms during Start-up due to the requirements of IIAR 7 6.4.1.1(g)
    • Modified Monitor Normal Operations sections to include explicit checks for all appropriate items in section of IIAR 7 6.4.2.1
    • Optimized HOA / LOTO call-out Made more explicit LOTO call-outs in the Manual Shutdown section.
    • Optimized lead-in language to Manual Shutdown section and closure of Emergency Shutdown section to include Supervisory notification required under of IIAR 7 6.4.4 & 6.4.5.1. Manual Shutdown now starts with an option to just STOP the unit and then offers steps to pump it down.
    • Optimized Emergency Shutdown section to make it easier to follow. Added an explicit requirement to notify supervisory personnel so they can evaluate the need for an Incident Investigation.
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text.
  • Overall System Operation ROSOP 101 Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
  • NH3Vent ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Updated Emergency Operations & Equipment Information section to standardize use of capitalization and bold text. A nearly complete rewrite of the section as well.
  • Car-Seal ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
  • Line Opening (LEO) ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
    • Removed – Non-Permit version of the ROSOP. Still available in 0bsolete archive.
  • Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) ROSOP Template
    • Updated the Safety & Health section to use more of the IIAR example wording.

Yes, there are a LOT of changes! If you want any assistance or clarification on any of these changes, feel free to contact me.

 

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Merry Christmas from the EPA!

Yesterday the EPA released their long-awaited changes to the RMP rule which will take effect in roughly 60 days. (Don’t worry too much – the earliest actual compliance date for the new requirements is an additional year away and many of them are four years away.)

While the rule isn’t *official* until it’s published in the Federal Register, they have provided the prepublication version with commentary on their website. The document itself is 372 pages long which is impressive considering the original rule is 17 pages.

Go over to RCE Chill and read the full post for more info including a 55 page summary that lists:

  • What the new text says.
  • What the new text means.
  • What you must do (and when you must do it!) to become compliant.

UPDATE: Updated links to Federal Register posting of the rule.

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Pencil-Whipping can Kill

What is it? Pencil-whipping is when you complete a form, record, or document without having performed the implied work or without supporting data or evidence.

Here are some common examples in NH3 refrigeration:

  • Completing “word orders” without conducting the work
  • “Signing off” on SOP reviews or PHA revalidations without actually reviewing or revalidating the documents.
  • Certifying training – or signing training attendance forms – without the training actually occurring.

Why take it seriously? There are several reasons, but here are some obvious ones:

  • You can be prosecuted for false statements resulting in fines and/or jail time.
  • There is significant legal liability if the action leads to an incident.
  • You can be fired for false statements
  • There can be significant safety repercussions to documenting work that wasn’t done.

I want to briefly focus on the last one – what can happen when you document that work was done when it actually wasn’t. If you are being assigned a task, we have to assume that the performance of that task is important to the system as a whole.

Imagine your job was to inspect some equipment that was prone to long-term wear – equipment that was relied upon for normal function. Now imagine that you didn’t conduct those inspections leading the users of that equipment to believe it was in proper working order. They are relying for their safety on YOUR lie!

Here’s what that can lead to:

capture1And here’s what can happen when people investigate the incident:

Thursday morning, the General Manager and CEO of the Board Safety Commission released a statement regarding the firings: “…I want the Board, our employees and our customers to know that this review revealed a disturbing level of indifference, lack of accountability, and flagrant misconduct in a portion of Metro’s track department which is completely intolerable. Further, it is reprehensible that any supervisor or mid-level manager would tolerate or encourage this behavior, or seek to retaliate against those who objected. It is also entirely unacceptable to me that any employee went along with this activity, rather than exercise a safety challenge, or any of the multiple avenues available to protect themselves, their coworkers, and the riding public.

Since the derailment occurred, we have either taken action or are in the process of taking disciplinary actions involving 28 individuals. This represents nearly half of the track inspection department and includes BOTH management and frontline track employees.

Six employees have been terminated, including 4 track inspectors and 2 supervisors

Six more track inspectors are pending termination or unpaid suspension; and 10 more are pending possible discipline pending the outcome of the administrative process

Another supervisor termination is underway; and two more supervisors are pending the outcome of the administrative process

One Superintendent was demoted to Supervisor

One Assistant General Superintendent was demoted to Superintendent

One assistant superintendent separated from Metro before the review concluded

In closing: Pencil-Whipping is immoral, illegal and just plain wrong. Don’t do it.

capture2

p.s. If you want to see how some instances of pencil-whipping are caused by overload, check out this video from Seth Wehner.

Posted in Compliance, Culture, General Information, Incidents, Inspections, Mechanical Integrity, Operator Training, System Optimization | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Militarized Incompetence or Unintentional Sabotage

 oss1

In 1944, near the end of WW2, the Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) released a field guide called the “Simple Sabotage Field Manual.” The purpose of the suggestions in the manual was “to present suggestions for inciting and executing (sabotage)” for the citizen saboteur to “undermine organizations from within.”

I’d like to focus on three suggestions provided in the manual that I’ve routinely seen implemented in facilities across the nation.

Think about that for a second – these are suggestions on how to undermine an organization from a SPY AGENCY that employees are implementing TODAY in facilities – often, without intent or an understanding of how their behaviors are affecting the organization.

#1 – Don’t train the new technician or Share Information

oss2In an era where employees no longer feel any real loyalty from their employer, it’s not surprising that this is a problem. After all, if you train the new technician, what’s to stop them from taking your job? Now, I could explain all the ways that a trained technician would help your process (and you) be safer and more effective, but I’m going to assume you’ve already heard this before and it wasn’t enough to convince you. Instead, I’m going to appeal to something else: If nobody else can do your job, then you cannot be promoted.

#2 – Find reasons to fail

oss3

In dozens of compliance audits around the country I’ve witnessed horrible housekeeping and/or a lack of basic maintenance. When questioned, the maintenance employees usually give some version of:

  • We’re short-staffed and they won’t approve more hours/employees
  • Various capital projects are still waiting approval
  • Scheduling contractors to address some other issue is proving difficult

Note that none of these things are really reasons why you can’t pick trash up off the machine room floor (or not place it there in the first place.) What they are is an attempt to redirect your attention somewhere else – specifically to someone else.

Look, I understand. I’ve worked inside large (and small) bureaucracies before and the frustration is real. It’s unfortunately very easy to let someone else’s failures demotivate you. Don’t let someone’s inability to do their job stop you from doing your job. You can take time to complain about everyone else’s failures as soon as you’ve made sure all your stuff is taken care of.

#3 – Sabotage Paperwork oss4

Anyone with a PSM/RM Program has seen this issue. Common examples include:

  • An MOC filled out with a “Technical Basis for Change” that sounds more like an explanation given to a two-year-old than an engineering rationale. “We moved the air unit.” Ok. Why did you move it? Where did you move it to? Where did you move it from? How do we know the new area is acceptable? Etc.
  • An incident investigation that makes you think the author was being charged by the letter. “Leak in Au1 coil. Fixed.” Where was the leak? What was the extent of the leak? What were the repercussions of the leak? What happened during the investigation of / response to the leak? How was it fixed and by whom? What lead to the leak? What are we doing to stop this from happening again? Etc.

If you view MOCs and Incident Investigations as “filling out the paperwork” rather than documenting your work, you’ll routinely get poor results.

These are just three examples of employee actions that are disturbingly similar to suggestions from a SPY AGENCY on how to intentionally undermine an organization. I’m not suggesting that your employees are undercover agents from your competitors, but if they are exhibiting these behaviors, and you aren’t addressing them, what is the practical difference between militarized incompetence  or unintentional sabotage to your organization?

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APR’s aren’t Magic

When I see people writing “Have a Full-Face APR (Air Purifying Respirator) nearby, within arm’s reach” in their Line/Equipment Opening (aka Line Break) procedures, my blood-pressure shoots through the roof. Yes, I know I am a rather excitable guy by nature, but there is a legitimate reason for my anger here. 

This incident narrative is why: 

It is believed the oil drain valve was initially clogged as the employee opened it a full three turns before any ammonia came out. When liquid exited the valve and struck the employee he fell face first on concrete in hallway.   “Convulsions” were observed by other employees and the operator was unable to self-rescue due to lung spasms. The other employees had no access to PPE and could not assist the victim. 

Would a Full-Face APR within “arm’s reach” have been useful to that employee AFTER he was struck in the face with liquid ammonia? 

NO. IT WOULD NOT.

With NO protection, that operator was essentially doomed the second the NH3 left the pipe and struck him.

PPE stands for Personal Protective Equipment, not Potentially Protective Equipment.

aprnotmagicPPE isn’t some sort of magic relic that provides protection while you are within a certain radius of its location. It works when – and ONLY when – you use it properly. This same foolish thinking that allows people to require APR’s “nearby” could be applied to seat-belts with about the same effectiveness: “Well, no he wasn’t wearing the seat-belt during the accident. Funny thing: the darned seat-belt was right there next to him and he still went out the window when the car hit the tree.”

Now, imagine instead that the operator in that incident narrative was wearing a Full-Face APR. While Full-Face APR’s aren’t designed for liquid exposure, would he have survived if he were wearing one? Almost certainly, YES. Certainly his odds would have improved astronomically. He may well have suffered severe burns, but it is very likely that the Full-Face APR would have afforded him enough protection so that he would have been able to evacuate himself from the area and seek a safety shower to minimize the damage to his skin.

Please, THINK about your policies and REQUIRE that Full-Face APR’s are worn during ALL Line & Equipment openings.

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We’re all in this together

vegas-skyline

It was great to meet so many friends and colleagues in Las Vegas last week for RETA’s annual conference. While all business is about personal relationships, most people recognize that the Ammonia Refrigeration industry is a uniquely tight-knit group. I’ve always been strong supporters of RETA because their focus is on the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians – the actual ground troops that do the work!

The comradery of the process operators in our industry is second to none and it’s always good to get the opportunity to assemble in one place for a few days to discuss common issues. A common theme this year in our conversations was one that has been very prevalent for the last few years, but only seems to be getting worse: the operator shortage.

For nearly a decade now there just aren’t enough skilled operators to go around and that has only highlighted the need for quality training for the new people we’re drafting into the field. There have been third-party solutions for overall refrigeration training for years and these programs have value, but they must serve to augment quality in-house training, not replace it.

What a quality in-house training program looks like is a very complicated subject and one we may write about at some point, but what I’d like to talk about today is something related to that topic: the power imbalance between the new and the seasoned operator.

While driving to Arkansas for a client visit earlier this week I was listening to a book on tape: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: The Story of Success.” In a chapter on Airplane crashes he spoke of a very interesting statistic: The plain is more likely to crash when the Captain is flying than when the First Officer is flying. Isn’t that odd? Wouldn’t you expect the more seasoned, more experienced Captain to be safer than the comparatively less seasoned and experienced First Officer?

He also offered what many psychologists believe is the reason for this: The Captain is very likely to point out a mistake made by the First Officer because they are in an elevated position compared to them. It is much more difficult – psychologically speaking – for the junior officer to challenge the Captain! With so many experienced operators training new ones, couldn’t we also be affected by this sort of power imbalance?

So, here are a couple thoughts for those of you in the field to help us all avoid the problems caused by power imbalance:

If you are the more seasoned, experienced technician:

  • Are you making yourself approachable?
  • Are you actively soliciting input from your colleagues on your plan of action?
  • Are you rewarding questions about your plan of action or punishing them?
  • Are you considering questions about your plan as teaching moments rather than challenges to your “authority?”

If you are the less seasoned, experience technician:

  • Are you speaking up if you have concerns or questions about the plan of action?
  • Are you insisting that you are heard rather than just making sure you have said your piece?
  • Are you posing your concerns or questions as opportunities for your colleagues to train you?

It’s the last bullet of each of those that I want to focus on briefly. Whether you are the questioner or the person answering the question, you need to look at these moments of confusion as teaching moments. Saying “That’s stupid” or “I wouldn’t do it that way,” is perceived as a challenge and isn’t likely to get a constructive response. Saying “Help me understand why you are doing it this way,” “Is there a reason not to do it this other way,” or “Let me explain why I’m doing it this way” starts a dialogue between people that can bring you both together.

By asking yourself the above questions, the experienced technician will soon come to understand that “teaching” someone often helps them clarify their thoughts and makes them understand their own actions better. The inexperienced technician will find that training isn’t just something that happens in a classroom – their day is full of learning opportunities.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

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