Reactive Chemical Hazards: What's the Enforcement Track Record?

Nov. 14, 2003
OSHA Administrator John Henshaw has indicated the agency will not accept the Chemical Safety Board's (CSB) recommendation that OSHA amend its process safety management (PSM) standard to cover more reactive chemical hazards, but instead plans to rely on its general duty clause..

Although OSHA has not yet formally responded to CSB, in September, Henshaw said the agency would instead focus on providing guidance to industry, while relying on general duty clause (GDC) enforcement to deal with reactive hazards not covered by the PSM regulation.

What is OSHA's track record on using the GDC or PSM to tackle reactive chemical hazards? It is very difficult to answer that question, according to Mike Marshall, OSHA's PSM coordinator in the directorate of enforcements programs.

"We do not have a database on inspections for reactive hazards, our database was not set up for that," said Marshall. A keyword search of OSHA's database for GDC inspections with "chemical" and "reaction" yielded 55 incidents since 1986. "Not all 55 are necessarily reactive incidents," commented Marshall. "And there could well be more than 55." Another key word search yielded 194 hits. A year-by-year analysis of the incidents revealed no trends in the number of investigations conducted each year.

It is no easier to determine how many reactive incidents OSHA investigated using the PSM standard, Marshall said. He explained that "we would want to use the PSM standard when we could," because it is easier to enforce than the GDC, but that the advantage of the GDC is that it potentially applies to all situations.

OSHA's inability to determine its track record on enforcement of reactive chemical hazards seems to underscore the validity of a second CSB recommendation: that OSHA implement a program to define and record reactive incidents the agency investigates, in order to determine trends in the number of catastrophic reactive incidents. Such an effort would also indicate the effectiveness of OSHA's enforcement effort, and the relative value of the PSM and GDC mechanisms.

In his September speech, Henshaw made no mention of CSB's data recommendation. Marshall said it would be addressed when OSHA formally responds to CSB, probably before the end of the year.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!