Unexpected releases of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals have been reported for many years. Incidents continue to occur in various industries that use highly hazardous chemicals which may be toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive, or may exhibit a combination of these properties. Regardless of the industry that uses these highly hazardous chemicals, there is a potential for an accidental release anytime they are not properly controlled. This, in turn, creates the possibility of disaster. Recent major disasters include the 1984 Bhopal, India, incident resulting in more than 2,000 deaths; the October 1989 Phillips Petroleum Company, Pasadena, TX, incident resulting in 23 deaths and 132 injuries; the July 1990 BASF, Cincinnati, OH, incident resulting in 2 deaths, and the May 1991 IMC, Sterlington, LA, incident resulting in 8 deaths and 128 injuries. Although these major disasters involving highly hazardous chemicals drew national attention to the potential for major catastrophes, the public record is replete with information concerning many other less notable releases of highly hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemical releases continue to pose a significant threat to employees and provide impetus, internationally and nationally, for authorities to develop or consider developing legislation and regulations to eliminate or minimize the potential for such events. On July 17, 1990, OSHA published in the Federal Register (55 FR29150) a proposed standard,—”Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals”—containing requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals to help assure safe and healthful workplaces. OSHA’s proposed standard emphasized the management of hazards associated with highly hazardous chemicals and established a comprehensive management program that integrated technologies, procedures, and management practices. The notice of proposed rule making invited comments on any aspect of the proposed standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals and announced the scheduling of a hearing to begin on November 27, 1990, in Washington, DC. On November 1, 1990, OSHA published a Federal Register notice (55 FR 46074) scheduling a second hearing to begin on February 26, 1991, in Houston, TX, enumerating additional issues, and extending the written comment period until January 22, 1991. The hearings on the proposed standard were held in Washington,DC, from November 27, 1990, through December 4, 1990, and inHouston, TX, from February 26, 1991, through March 7, 1991. The Administrative Law Judge presiding at the hearings allowed participants to submit post-hearing comments until May 6, 1991, and file post-hearing briefs until June 5, 1991. OSHA received more than 175 comments in response to the notice of proposed rule making. In addition to these comments, the hearings resulted in almost 4,000 pages of testimony and almost 60 post-hearing comments and briefs. For readers’ convenience, this publication includes, as an appendix, the full text of the final OSHA standard issued in the Federal Register on February 24, 1992, including the list of covered chemicals and threshold amounts. State plan States, approved under section 18(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (see list on page 36) must adopt standards and enforce requirements which are at least as effective as Federal requirements. There are currently 25 State plan States; 23 covering private and public (State and local government) sectors and two covering public sector only. Plan States must adopt comparable standards to the Federal within six months of a Federal standard’s promulgation. Approximately four months after the publication of OSHA’s proposed standard for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals, the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) were enacted into law (November 15, 1990). Section 304 of the CAAA requires that the Secretary of Labor, in coordination with the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), promulgate, pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Heath Act of 1970, a chemical process safety standard to prevent accidental releases of chemicals that could pose a threat to employees. The CAAA requires that the standard include a list of highly hazardous chemicals which includes toxic, flammable, highly reactive, and explosive substances. The CAAA also specified minimum elements that the OSHA standard must require employers to do, as follows:
(1) Develop and maintain written safety information identifying workplace chemical and process hazards, equipment used in the processes, and technology used in the processes;
(2) Perform a workplace hazard assessment, including, as appropriate, identification of potential sources of accidental releases, identification of any previous release within the facility that had a potential for catastrophic consequences in the workplace, estimation of workplace effects of a range of releases, and estimation of the health and safety effects of such a range on employees;
(3) Consult with employees and their representatives on the development and conduct of hazard assessments and the development of chemical accident prevention plans and provide access to these and other records required under the standard;
(4) Establish a system to respond to the workplace hazard assessment findings, which shall address prevention, mitigation, and emergency responses;
(5) Review periodically the workplace hazard assessment and response system;
(6) Develop and implement written operating procedures for the chemical processes, including procedures for each operating phase, operating limitations, and safety and health considerations;
(7) Provide written safety and operating information for employees and employee training in operating procedures, by emphasizing hazards and safe practices that must be developed and made available;
(8) Ensure contractors and contract employees are provided with appropriate information and training;
(9) Train and educate employees and contractors in emergency response procedures in a manner as comprehensive and effective as that required by the regulation promulgated pursuant to section 126(d) of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act;
(10) Establish a quality assurance program to ensure that initial process-related equipment, maintenance materials, and spare parts are fabricated and installed consistent with design specifications;
(11) Establish maintenance systems for critical process-related equipment, including written procedures, employee training, appropriate inspections, and testing of such equipment to ensure on going mechanical integrity;
(12) Conduct pre-startup safety reviews of all newly installed or modified equipment;
(13) Establish and implement written procedures managing change to process chemicals, technology, equipment and facilities; and
(14) Investigate every incident that results in or could have resulted in a major accident in the workplace, with any findings to be reviewed by operating personnel and modifications made, if appropriate.
Also the CAAA, identifies specific duties for EPA relative to the prevention of accidental releases (see section 301 (r)). Generally, EPA must develop a list of chemicals and a Risk Management Plan.