Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

OSHA issues new Process Safety Management Standard enforcement guidance

Posted by Jon Elliott on Fri, Feb 09, 2024

Hazardous_chemical_warning_signsThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Standard for Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (usually referred to as “PSM”) requires extensive risk assessments and reduction efforts by facilities where a significant incident involving these chemicals might have catastrophic consequences. OSHA adopted PSM in 1992, and has made only minor technical revisions in the ensuing three decades. OSHA has also issued enforcement guidance to its inspectors, which it had not revised since 2012. However, in December 2023 OSHA issued an extensive new PSM enforcement policy, most of which is formatted in a total of 192 Questions and Responses designed to guide enforcement – and compliance that can obviate enforcement. The remainder of this note provides a very brief summary of the 120 page Enforcement Policy document.

What activities are subject to PSM?

The PSM Standard applies to facilities with any “process” that manages one or more “highly hazardous chemicals” listed by OSHA, in quantities that meet or exceed OSHA’s compliance threshold quantity. These criteria are met at many petroleum refineries, chemical plants, explosives manufacturing operations, and other industrial facilities. (I’ve summarized key terms and compliance requirements HERE).

What Questions and Responses does OSHA provide in its new Enforcement Policy?

OSHA’s new Enforcement Policy (Directive Number: CPL 02-01-065, “Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals”) presents 192 questions and agency responses by topic (many track subsections in the actual PSM Standard (29 CFR 1910.120)):

  1. Application – 85 questions that illustrate how to determine whether a facility is subject to PSM, including process, highly hazardous chemicals, and threshold quantities (which vary with physical state and compounding).
  2. Definitions – 27 questions address specific application of key definitions
  3. Employee participation – 3 questions address the required degree and form of employee participation in planning and implementation.
  4. Process Safety Information – 20 questions describe the types of information that must be collected ad retained.
  5. Process Hazard Analysis – 21 questions about PSM’s requirements for process hazard analysis.
  6. Operating Procedures – 6 questions about analytical and content requirements for operating procedures.
  7. Training – 5 questions about training requirements.
  8. Contractors – 6 questions about PSM provisions’ applicability to contractors and their employees.
  9. Pre-Startup Safety Review – 6 questions about requirements for new and modified processes.
  10. Mechanical Integrity – 11 questions about the applicability of this requirement.
  11. Hot Work Permit – 2 questions about the scope of this requirement.
  12. Management of Change – 8 questions about the applicability of this requirement, and about documentation requirements.
  13. Incident Investigation – 1 question/response confirming that an employer can reject investigation team recommendations.
  14. Emergency Planning and Response – 5 questions about these requirements, and their relation to provisions in the HAZWOPER standard and Emergency Action Plan requirements.

What happens next?

The new policy does not create any new or different compliance requirements, but does provide extensive and detailed updates of OSHA’s interpretations of PSM provisions that may become the subject of inspections and enforcement actions. This is therefore a good time for any facility subject to OSHA’s PSM to review its activities – facilities subject to delegated state authority in “state plan states” should also do so, even though OSHA does not require states to apply the same interpretations.

Self-Assessment Checklist

Does the organization operate any facilities that manage chemicals that could produce catastrophic damage in major incidents?

If so, are any of these facilities regulated by PSM, as administered by OSHA or a delegated state agency?

If so, has each such facility established required compliance measures?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

  • OSHA

  - “Process Safety Management” web portal"

 - CPL 02-01-065, “Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals” (12/14/23)

About the Author

jon_f_elliottJon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 30 years. 

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

Tags: Health & Safety, OSHA, Safety and Health at Work, workplace safety, chemical safety, PSM