EHS Administration, Enforcement and Inspection

Enforcement Focus On RMP

On August 22, 2022, the EPA announced Smith Frozen Foods Inc. of Weston, Oregon, agreed to pay a $100,000 fine for Clean Air Act (CAA) violations. During a 2016 inspection, the EPA found the company failed to maintain and implement its required Risk Management Plan (RMP) when using and storing anhydrous ammonia, which is used as a refrigerant.

Anhydrous ammonia exposure can cause severe irritation and corrosive burns and is potentially fatal. In addition, the chemical is reactive and poses fire and explosion hazards. Therefore, facilities must be prepared to properly handle and store the chemical, and RMPs are required to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to an accidental release of this chemical.

“The company did not have written operating procedures for certain equipment, and had failed to provide initial and refresher equipment training to employees, inspectors found,” says the Statesman Journal. “It also had not performed inspections and tests on the equipment at the required frequency and following standard good practices. And it hired contractors to perform maintenance and repair work on the ammonia refrigeration process but did not obtain and evaluate information regarding each contractor’s safety performance and programs, as required.”

In paying the fine, Smith Frozen Foods neither admitted to nor denied the EPA findings.

The company violated the following RMP provisions:

  • Safety information requirements
  • Hazard analysis requirements
  • Operating procedure requirements
  • Training requirements
  • Mechanical integrity requirements
  • Employee participation requirements
  • Contractor requirements

Safety information requirements

Owners and operators are required to compile and maintain the following up-to-date safety information related to the regulated substances, processes, and equipment:

  • Safety data sheets (SDSs) that meet the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard;
  • Maximum intended inventory of equipment in which the regulated substances are stored or processed;
  • Safe upper and lower temperatures, pressures, flows, and compositions;
  • Equipment specifications;
  • Codes and standards used to design, build, and operate the process; and
  • Process design specifications demonstrating the process is designed in compliance with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices.

Hazard analysis requirements

A facility’s hazard analysis should include hazard assessments detailing the potential effects of an accidental release, an accident history of the last 5 years, and an evaluation of worst-case and alternative accidental releases.

EPA compliance inspections also check:

  • The date of completion of the most recent process hazard analysis (PHA) or update and the technique used.
  • The expected date of completion of any changes resulting from the PHA.
  • That process controls, mitigation systems, and monitoring and detection systems are in use.
  • Changes since the last PHA are documented.

Operating procedure requirements

RMP compliance requires owners and operators to ensure their operating procedures are adequate, up to date, implemented, and accessible. Smith Foods did not meet these requirements.

For Program 3 processes only, facilities must annually certify that their operating procedures are current and accurate.

Training requirements

With respect to training, inspectors will verify:

  • Completion of facility-specific safety and health orientation training;
  • Owner or operator certification that each employee presently operating a process and each employee newly assigned to a covered process has been trained or tested competent in the operating procedures;
  • Owner or operator certification that refresher training has been provided at least every 3 years, or more often if necessary, to each employee operating a process to ensure that the employee understands and adheres to the current operating procedures of the process;
  • Owner or operator certification that each employee was trained in any updated or new procedures before start-up of a process after a major change;
  • Completion of OSHA-required training;
  • Documentation that each employee involved in operating a process has received and understood the training required; and
  • Complete training records for all employees, including:
    • Initial overview of process training
    • Operating procedures
    • Hazard communication
    • Use of emergency escape respirators
    • Emergency operations
    • Emergency response

Training records must include employee identities, an identification of the method used to determine the employee understood the training, and dates and type of training provided (classroom, on the job, and/or a combination of the two).

Smith Foods failed to provide the required training and had no documentation that such training was provided.

Mechanical integrity requirements

Owners or operators with processes subject to Program 3 requirements must establish and implement written procedures to maintain the ongoing integrity of the process equipment and provide appropriate training.

The inspection at Smith Frozen Foods found the company “had failed to establish and implement written procedures to maintain the ongoing integrity of the subject equipment in the Weston Facility Process, … had not trained each of its employees involved in maintaining the equipment’s ongoing integrity, … had not performed [timely] inspections and tests on the subject equipment, … failed to document [equipment] inspections and tests,” and failed to correct previously identified equipment deficiencies, according to the EPA Consent Agreement.

Employee participation requirements

The RMP requires employee participation in the hazard analysis process and access to the process hazard information. In the case of Smith Frozen Foods, the EPA found the company failed to consult with its employees and their representatives when developing PHAs and failed to provide access to PHAs.

Contractor requirements

The regulation requires owners or operators to obtain and evaluate information regarding a contract owner’s or operator’s safety performance and programs when hiring contractors to perform maintenance or repair, turnaround, major renovation, or specialty work on or adjacent to a covered process. They must also periodically evaluate the contractor’s performance. The EPA inspection revealed a failure to conduct such evaluations.

Conclusion

RMP requirements are extensive and for good reason. A release of a chemical regulated under the RMP may have catastrophic impacts on the facility, the environment, and the surrounding community. Facilities subject to these regulations are advised to carefully review 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 68 in its entirety.