GCAP files FOIA Exemption Appeal

Over at the GCAP I’ve been working on an interesting FOIA request for OSHA’s coursebook on class 3430: Advanced Process Safety Management in the Chemical Industries. This is the class an OSHA inspector takes as part of becoming NEP qualified.

You can read more about it at ChemNEP.com

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H.R.1648 – Protecting America’s Workers Act

Rep. Miller, George [D-CA-11] has introduced legislation to revise the OSHA penalty structure. There are some interesting changes in this legislation:

  • Repeat Violations – Increased from $70,000 to $120,000
  • Serious Violations – OSHA has requested increase from $7,000 to $12,000.
  • Built in inflation adjustment for penalty amounts
  • Requirement of reporting of fatalities and hospitalizations of 2 or more employees (currently 3)
  • 5 years imprisonment for a 1st offence violation that causes or contributes to serious bodily harm to any employee but does not cause death to any employee – 10 years for subsequent offences
  • 10 years imprisonment for a 1st offence violation that causes or contributes to the death to any employee – 20 years for subsequent offences
  • Increases federal oversight of state OSHA plans
  • Increases whistle-blower protection
  • Allows multiple general duty citations – one for each affected employee

These would be massive changes to the enforcement of the OSHA rules.

You can read the bill at this link.

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IIAR 2 and IIAR 4 up for public review

IIAR Standard 2 (Safety Standard for Equipment, Design, and Installation of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Mechanical Refrigeration Systems) and IIAR Standard 4 (Installation of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Mechanical Refrigeration Systems) are available for public review on the IIAR website.

While being an IIAR member is always a good idea, you do not have to be a member to download or comment on these proposed standards.

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CSB Releases Safety Video on 2009 Fatal Blast at NDK Crystal – Animation Depicts Stress Corrosion Cracking; Vessels Were Not Inspected or Tested

Today the CSB issued a report on a 2009 vessel failure that it blamed on Stress Corrosion Cracking. There are some interesting lessons to be learned about incident investigation in this report since the mechanism that led to the vessel’s failure was identified years before due to a smaller failure in the vessel lid.

Since this is actually an issue for Ammonia Refrigeration Systems, I wouldn’t be surprised if this means the Stress Corrosion Cracking issue comes back into the revolving Chemical NEP questions.

You can learn more about SSC in IIAR2 Appendix J, which defines it as follows:

Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) is a generic term describing the initiation and propagation of cracks that can occur in metals when subjected to stress in the presence of an enabling chemical environment. The stress can originate from an externally applied force, thermal stress, or residual stress from welding or forming.

You should read the entire appendix, but one thing you want to do for sure is ensure that oxygen is not available inside your system. You can do this through proper evacuation during commissioning / maintenance and checking for non-condensables routinely. It also recommends that your vesels are post-weld heat treated, but that’s something you can’t do after they are installed.

Link to the CSB report: http://www.csb.gov/assets/1/19/CSB_CaseStudy_NDK_1107_500PM.pdf

Link to the CSB video: http://www.youtube.com/embed/uo7H_ILs1qc

Crossposted to ChemNEP.com

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EPA goes after a cold storage, the real estate agent AND the customer leasing the space!

Complainant issued a Compliance Order to Respondent, and also to Quirch Foods Caribbean, Corp., and Caparra Realty Associates, LLC ( “the Order”) pursuant to Section 1 13 of the Act regarding the Facility. The Order required these parties to perform certain activities at the Facility including the performance of repairs to the ammonia equipment. Complainant issued a Compliance Order to Respondent,and also to Quirch Foods Caribbean, Corp., and Caparra Realty Associates, LLC ( “the Order”) pursuant to Section 1 13 of the Act regarding the Facility. The Order required these parties to perform certain activities at the Facility including the performance of repairs to the ammonia equipment.


Essentially, they issued general duty citations to the company that was actually operating the facility, but they also ordered the Real Estate company and the CUSTOMER of the cold storage (that was leasing the cold space) to ensure that they fixed the compliance issues.

I would imagine this will increase the customer oversight of Regulatory Compliance quite a bit.

Here’s the actual settlement agreement.

A tip of the hat to Bryan Haywood for covering this on his site.

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NRC Call – When is it necessary? When is it a good idea?

Most people involved with Ammonia Refrigeration understand that if we have an unintentional release of ammonia in excess of 100 pounds over a 24hr period, we have to report it to the National Response Center (among others) immediately or face substantial fines. These fines can be very large

Because of this, I’m getting reports that some companies are requiring their employees to report EVERY release, no matter how small. Usually this is in response to a citation at one of their facilities for not reporting a release that was clearly over 100 pounds in a timely manner.

While I’ve long counseled that companies should report EVERY release that the REASONABLY believe is near 100 pounds, I think the idea of reporting nuisance leaks (packing leaks for example) that are CLEARLY below 100 pounds, is unwise and it’s very possible that someone is going to ask: “Why is ABC company having so many leaks?” followed shortly thereafter by “Perhaps we should send a referral to the EPA or OSHA to make sure everything is OK!”

Reporting leaks that clearly are not going to involve a release of 100 pounds over a 24 hour period is just asking for trouble. Companies with these policies should reconsider them.

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Paying for PSM, California Style

The state of California is having some trouble funding their oversight of their state PSM rule: CalARP. Don’t worry though, they have a solution…

The Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) is proposing to adopt emergency regulations to implement a methodology for determining and collecting an annual assessment to fund the DOSH Process Safety Management Program (Labor Code sections 7855 – 7870). —DOIR

Their intent is to levy a pro-rated “assessment” (read that as “fee”) on the oil refineries in the state to fund their operations. It will be interesting to see if this works well for them. If it does, I would expect a program like this to roll out across the state plans and perhaps even at the federal level.

The refineries have quite a bit of political pull though, so I would also expect this burden to be spread a little bit to all covered processes, not just the refineries.

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How do I deal with recommendations to my program?

You should frequently get recommendations for improving your PSM program through the PSM elements of Employee Participation, Process Hazard Analysis, Incident Investigations, Mechanical Integrity audits, Compliance Audits. Often, these recommendations are worthwhile improvements to your system that are worthy of your consideration. Eventually (and as soon as reasonably possible) you should “resolve” the recommendation. How do you go about that? OSHA’s CPL 2.2-45A offers some excellent guidance:

OSHA considers an employer to have “resolved” the team’s findings and recommendations when the employer either has adopted the recommendations, or has justifiably declined to do so. Where a recommendation is rejected, the employer must communicate this to the team, and expeditiously resolve any subsequent recommendations of the team.

An employer can justifiably decline to adopt a recommendation where the employer can document, in writing and based upon adequate evidence, that one or more of the following conditions is true:

  1. The analysis upon which the recommendation is based contains material factual errors;
  2. The recommendation is not necessary to protect the health and safety of the employer’s own employees, or the employees of contractors;
  3. An alternative measure would provide a sufficient level of protection; or
  4. The recommendation is infeasible.

Leaving open recommendations in your program is nothing less than providing a road-map to OSHA and the EPA for citations.

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Do your Emergency Shut-down and Ventilation switches comply with IIAR2-2008b/IIAR5-2013, Appendix B?

IIAR5 was released just recently and a surprising number of people think that it introduces new requirements for emergency switches. The requirements themselves don’t differ from IIAR2-2008b – they are just laid out a little clearer in IIAR5, Appendix B:

B.3.1.ii: …provide a manually operated tamper proof switch immediately outside of the principle entrance. Switch(es) shall initiate visual and audible alarms inside and outside of the area as well as initiate automatic equipment de-energization.

B.4: The ventilation system shall also be capable of manual activation through an independent emergency control switch outside and near the principle machinery room door (with another at ground level if the machinery room is not at ground level). This switch is separate from the equipment shut-down switch described in B.3.1. In addition to the manually operated switch described above, an additional manual on/off/auto tamper proof switch shall be located remotely (as agreed upon with local authorities having jurisdiction) for use by emergency responders who may wish to start or stop the ventilation system depending on circumstances.

Most of us already have an equipment shut-down switch and the ventilation switch because it’s been required for a very long time. The additional manual on/off/auto tamper proof switch that is located remotely for the ventilation is something that wasn’t required by IIAR2 until 2008.

Failing to adhere to (or address) RAGAGEP (Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices) are the cause for most PSM citations. Those who attend the PSM or NEP classes I teach at GCAP receive copies of our custom checklists for common RAGAGEP including:

  • IIAR2-2008a
  • IIAR2-2008b
  • IIAR-Bulletin 110
  • IIAR-Bulletin 114
  • IIAR3-2012
  • IIAR5-2013
  • ASHRAE15-2010

These custom checklists turn every requirement of the RAGAGEP into a PHA-like What If/Checklist question in a format that allows you to specify how you address each requirement.

Update 9/27/13 : Just got off the phone with the IIAR to clear up some confusion between IIAR 2 and IIAR 5. The intent is that the switches above are placed near the door that goes from the outside of the building into the machinery room.

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FUD in the news!

PSM people love their acronyms and we all have our favorites. One of mine is “FUD” or Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. I generally use this acronym when discussing how the media reports stories about topics I am familiar with. It seems odd that whenever the media discusses a topic I understand well, they almost always get it wrong. It makes you wonder if maybe they are equally as wrong when it comes to topics I haven’t researched.

In any case, today’s issue comes from an Ohio radio station regarding a minor leak at a local cold storage. I was willing to let the wrong word use (Censor v. Sensor) slide. The issue I took umbrage at was paragraph 5 which read:

“The compound has been cited by experts as a possible culprit for the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year, which flattened homes, killing 14 people and injuring 200 others. That plant was also storing ammonium nitrate. Investigators have been unable to determine an exact cause for the explosion.”

Let me go ahead and rewrite that to make it factually accurate and a little more to the point:

“Ammonia was erroneously cited by wildly speculating so-called experts  as a possible culprit for the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year, which flattened homes, killing 14 people and injuring 200 others. Investigators have been unable to determine an exact cause for the explosion; however that plant was also storing massive quantities of ammonium nitrate (a known explosive) which is now believed to have caused the destruction.”

There have been no ties to refrigeration grade ammonia and the West, Texas explosion since the horrible reporting and speculation of the first few days. Neither the CSB, ATF or the President of the United States in referencing the tragedy have spoken of a cause other than ammonium nitrate.

Frankly, there is nothing tying this story to West, Texas at all. In my opinion, the only reason to include the paragraph referencing it is that the reporter is trying to add FEAR, UNCERTAINTY and DOUBT in hopes that the article goes viral.

Note: There was a previous article on West, Texas as well as some photos I took of the devastation on my Google+ page.

Also, for reference, if you know of anyone else in the media thinking about writing an article concerning ammonia, please consider pointing them to my article “A reporters guide to Ammonia

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