EPA Proposes Risk Management Changes
On April 17, 2013, a chemical explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, that resulted in multiple fatalities and over 200 injuries. Investigators determined that this deadly explosion could have been prevented if safety hazards had been correctly identified and mitigated. In response to this tragedy, President Obama issued an Executive Order with the goal to “Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security” (EO 13650) on August 1, 2013. Prompted by this Executive Order, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a proposed rule change to the Accidental Release Prevention Requirements of Risk Management Programs (RMP), which is closely related to OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) rule and affects chemical process safety. These revisions are designed to both improve risk management systems at host facilities and increase communication between facilities and the public, including emergency response personnel, concerning site-related hazards and response requirements. In some cases, annual exercises to review emergency response plans may be required to ensure resources are in place in the event of an accidental release. Additionally, the EPA is proposing to strengthen incident investigation requirements by requiring a root cause analysis as part of incident investigations. The enhanced rule also requires regular analysis of high-risk processes and technology to determine the feasibility of implementing alternative technology. While this proposed rule is directed towards host facilities, the increased regulation is intended to enhance the safety of chemical process facilities for employers, employees, first responders and the community as a whole.