Washington OSHA Releases Draft Language for its PSM Standard for Refineries

By Daniel J. Grucza, Senior Attorney at Hunton & Williams LLP. February 7, 2018

Last October, we saw the State of California implement its “PSM for Refineries” standard and now the State of Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) appears to be following suit, releasing draft language to adopt a rule of its own. This new chapter will only apply to Process Safety Management (PSM) for petrochemical refining facilities.

This Washington PSM rulemaking is in the early stages, and the draft being sent to stakeholders is meant to serve as a discussion draft. The stated primary intent of this revised rule is to achieve the best occupational health outcome possible in regards to the refining industry. DOSH encourages stakeholders to review the draft language and share ideas that they may have to assist the project in moving forward.

Refineries that have had to implement the newly revised California PSM rules in that state know first-hand how challenging the interpretation and implementation of these rules can be. While the core elements of the final California regulations and the draft Washington regulations are described below, significant challenges can be presented to determine what is covered, what is a “Major Change” and what constitutes a “Major Incident,” to name just a few. Also, identifying and training employees to meet the new requirements, such as Damage Mechanism Reviews (DMR), Hazard Control Analyses (HCA), and Human Factors could require significant resources.

Upcoming Key Dates and Input Opportunities: DOSH will review the language and take comments from stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process. The next meeting dates are:

  • February 7, 2018 Time: 1:00 p.m.
  • February 21, 2018 Time: 9:00 a.m.

There will be several other meeting opportunities as the process moves forward. DOSH will share those future dates when finalized.

Refineries in Washington should make the most of this opportunity and engage early in the rulemaking process to provide input on the proposed new obligations, language and timing in the draft. Moreover, companies operating outside of Washington and California should be concerned with the potential for these types of regulations to spread farther to other states. These regulations may overlap and potentially conflict with federal PSM and Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulations.

Core Elements of the Draft Regulations: The draft closely mirrors the revisions recently adopted by California. Some significant, proposed new requirements include:

  • Damage Mechanism Reviews (DMR) – assessments of potential damage mechanisms that can affect process equipment, including corrosion, stress cracks and other material degradation. DMRs must be conducted for all processes within five years and as part of Major Changes, Incident Investigations and Process Hazards Analysis (PHA).
  • Employee Representative – union representative, where a union exists, or an employee-designated representative in the absence of a union that is on-site and qualified for the task. The term is to be construed broadly, and may include the local union, the international union, or a refinery or contract employee designated by these parties, such as the safety and health committee representative at the site.
  • Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis (HCA) – assessing hazard prevention and control measures in priority order to eliminate or minimize a hazard with inherent control measures ranked more effective than passive, active and procedural measures.
  • Human Factors – the employer must develop an effective human factors program to identify human factors-related issues such as staffing levels, fatigue, and interface with equipment and communication systems.
  • Implementation – provides timing requirements for implementation of corrective actions from a PHA, SPA, DMR, HCA, Compliance Audit and Incident Investigation. It also addresses criteria for the employer to reject a team recommendation (a determination of infeasibility cannot be based solely on cost) and to change a team recommendation (must be an equivalent or higher order of inherent safety).
  • Major Change – introduction of a new process, new process equipment or any new highly hazardous material; change outside safe operating limits; or any alteration that introduces a new process safety hazard or worsens an existing process safety hazard. Prior to implementing a major change, the employer must review or conduct a DMR and perform a HCA.
  • Major Incident – an event within or affecting a process that causes a fire, explosion or release of a highly hazardous material and that has the potential to result in death or serious physical harm. Major Incident Investigations must include a person with expertise in determining root causes, provide for employee collaboration, be initiated within 48 hours and completed within 90 days, and review DMRs, PHAs, Safeguard Protection Analyses (SPAs) and HCAs. Each corrective action must be completed within 18 months.
  • Management of Organizational Change (MOOC) – an assessment prior to the reduction of staffing levels, reduction of classification levels or increase in employee responsibilities and must be certified by the refinery manager and must provide for employee collaboration.
  • Process – Any activity involving a highly hazardous chemical (a substance possessing toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive properties). The definition includes interconnected vessels, including separate vessels which are located such that they could be involved in a release.
  • Process Safety Culture Assessment – a method to objectively define process safety values and beliefs and evaluates hazard reporting and response, safety incentive programs and priority of process safety during upset or emergency conditions.
  • PSM Management Program – requires an effective, written PSM program that designates the refinery manager as the person responsible for compliance, an organizational chart that identifies management responsibility for implementing PSM program elements and an assessment of process safety performance indicators against best practices, including leading and lagging factors.
© 2018 Hunton & Williams LLP. This update is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney/client relationship between Hunton & Williams and any readers or recipients. Readers should consult counsel of their own choosing to discuss how these matters relate to their individual circumstances. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the express written consent of Hunton & Williams. For more articles from Hunton & Williams, visit

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