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PSM/RMP: Exceptions to the Rule

2020 has necessitated change and adaptability on many levels. To abate the many risks posed by the pandemic, many facilities have started to explore additional service lines or processes, which means an entirely new set of equipment, chemicals, and employees. These additions create an additional set of hazards to mitigate in the workplace.

If your businesses pivoted manufacturing practices earlier this year, you may now be faced with the dilemma of installing and implementing new processes at your facility associated with the storage of flammable liquids. Do you know if you have the appropriate permitting or programs in place to continue production in compliance with the applicable rules and regulations?

Applicability and Exceptions

We will discuss a few scenarios focusing on the applicability of OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and EPA’s Risk Management Planning (RMP) standard.

Let’s assume that you setup your flammable liquid storage tank, blending tank, and new process line. You are ready to start production. Now what do you do?

It is obviously recommended to determine what rules apply prior to installing new equipment, but if you are determining applicability at this point in the process, it is just as critical to determine what don’t apply to you (and why).

Setting up a flammable liquid storage tank and mixing tank for your process could subject your new line to the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard (29 CFR 1910.119).  Under the PSM standard, OSHA has determined that a process involving a flammable liquid with a boiling point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit in a quantity 10,000 lbs. or more is subject to the standard.

Are there any exceptions if your storage is greater than 10,000 lbs?

If the liquid is stored in an atmospheric tank and is not chilled or refrigerated to keep below its boiling point, then the tank can be excluded from the PSM standard.  OSHA defines an atmospheric tank as a storage tank which has been designed to operate at pressures from atmospheric through 0.5 p.s.i.g. (pounds per square inch gauge, 3.45 Kpa).

Additionally, although your storage tank may meet the exception above; once you transfer the flammable liquid to the blend tank, the blend tank will be subject to the standard if the quantity is 10,000 lbs or greater.

What about the RMP standard?

If you fall under the OSHA PSM standard, you fall under the EPA RMP program 3; however, if you do not fall under the PSM standard, then you would not fall under RMP.

The EPA has a different way of determining what flammable liquids are subject to the standard.  If the flammable liquid in question is either ethanol or isopropanol (IPA), neither are listed by EPA as they have determined that only flammables listed by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) as Category 4 flammables are subject to the rule.  Both ethanol and IPA are NFPA category 3 flammables. In this situation, you have avoided regulation under PSM or RMP standards; however, suppose you install a blend tank to blend 10,000 lbs or more of flammable liquid?  Then you would be included in the PSM standard.

Implementing Management of Change

One way to identify potential regulatory issues is by having a Management of Change (MOC) system in place. Although an MOC process is only required by the PSM and RMP standard, having an MOC process can keep your facility compliant with the many rules and regulations that might apply. An MOC process will help in identifying new chemicals, new hazards and risks, and new permitting or reporting requirements before you make changes to your facility.

An MOC process is important to have before you purchase or initiate construction to prevent unintended consequences associated with your change.  During the MOC process you may identify air, stormwater, and wastewater permitting issues, new waste stream characterizations and classifications, and Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-know Act (EPCRA) Section 312 and 313 reporting. If you encounter these issues or requirements, Braun Intertec can help. For more information, read
“Using the Right Tools for your RPM/PSM Hazard Assessments”.

In a live, free webinar on November 19th, industrial hygiene and safety professionals, Nick Foreman, CSP, and Conan Reed, GSP, will discuss the applicability and exclusion criteria, the differences and commonalities between the two programs, some of the core and crucial definitions, steps and components of the programs, and some helpful lessons-learned from their RMP/PSM experience.