OSHA NEP Strives to Protect Workers from Chemical Releases

According to OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, "Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country." OSHA set out to address this concern by announcing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Nov. 30 to protect workers at these facilities from releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

"This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers," Michaels said.

The new NEP, which replaces OSHA's 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program, establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by the agency’s process safety management (PSM) standard.

The NEP's inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

In July 2009, OSHA implemented a multi-year pilot NEP for PSM-covered facilities in an effort to reduce releases of highly hazardous chemicals. According to Michaels, this pilot NEP uncovered many of the same safety-related problems in the chemical industry as found in the refinery industry. OSHA therefore decided to expand the enforcement program to a national level. In this way, the agency can "increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals," Michaels explained.

The new NEP can be downloaded as a PDF at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-014.pdf. For additional information, see OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics Web page on Process Safety Management.

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