Regulatory Developments

PSM Rule Finalized for California Petroleum Refineries

Petroleum refineries, in California as in the rest of the United States, have long been regulated by the same state or federal process safety management (PSM) standards that apply to all types of chemical facilities. But following the chemical release and fire at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA, on August 6, 2012, California regulators decided that the state’s existing PSM rule was not quite getting the job done.

PSM petroleum refinery refineries

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As a result of that fire, and the regulatory recommendations that followed in its wake, Cal/OSHA has now finalized a PSM rule specifically applicable to oil refineries, GISO Section 5189.1. It includes a variety of enhanced PSM elements, and will dovetail with new regulations from the California Accidental Release Prevention Program (Cal/ARP).

Stronger Rules for Refineries

The new rule has been added to Title 8 as section 5189.1 (Cal/OSHA’s existing PSM rules are found in section 5189). Its requirements include:

  • Damage mechanism reviews. Physical degradation, like corrosion and mechanical wear, are common technical causes of serious process failures, so damage mechanism reviews will be required for processes that result in equipment or material degradation.
  • Hierarchy of hazard controls analysis (HCA). The purpose of the HCA is to identify and prioritize the risks posed by each process safety hazard, and then to identify, analyze and document inherent safety measures and safeguards for each process safety hazard.  Employers are encouraged to implement the most effective safety measures when considering competing demands, and costs when correcting hazards.
  • Human factors program. Human factors include environmental, organizational and job factors, as well as human and individual characteristics, such as fatigue, staffing levels, training and competency,  that can affect job performance, process safety, and health and safety. They should be considered in the design of machines, operations and work environments, so that these closely match human capabilities, limitations and needs.
  • Management of organizational change. Refinery owners must develop, implement and maintain written procedures to ensure that plant safety remains consistent during personnel changes.
  • Root cause analysis. A root cause analysis, which must be completed as part of any incident investigation, attempts to determine the initiating causes of the incident, and it requires special expertise. A root cause analysis must include an assessment of management system failures, including organizational and safety culture deficiencies.
  • Process hazard analysis (PHA). A PHA looks closely at the effectiveness of safeguards that apply to particular processes and helps the refinery to identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with each process.
  • Process safety culture assessment program. The safety culture assessment identifies the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety, and evaluates responses to reports of hazards.

Changes to Cal/ARP

The new rules are part of a package of complementary regulations covering California refineries. The companion regulation strengthens the California Accidental Release Prevention program, which is designed to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances that could harm public health and the environment. The revised Cal/ARP regulation should be finalized within the next few weeks.