The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) issued a proposed rule updating process safety management (PSM) standards for petroleum refineries. Washington’s current PSM rule is identical to the federal standard issued by OSHA in 1992 – over 30 years ago. More recently, in late 2017, California revised their regulations on PSM for petroleum refineries, increasing requirements for refiners beyond those of general industry and federal OSHA regulations. L&I aimed for consistency with California’s regulations when drafting the proposal due to the large percentage of refiners who operate in both states; 80% of Washington’s refiners also operate in California. L&I indicated they believe having similar regulations to California will improve safety outcomes for employees and contractors who work at petroleum refineries in both states.

The New Requirements

Given that the proposed regulation is largely aligned with California’s PSM, the following Washington PSM requirements (while new to the state of Washington) are similar to the deviations from the federal requirements that were introduced in California in 2017:

  • Process Hazard Analyses (PHA): L&I’s proposed regulation increases the scope of PHAs by adding requirements to (1) perform a safeguard protection analysis, (2) address damage mechanism reviews during the PHA, and (3) require a Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis (HCA) for PHA recommendations. All initial PHAs for processes not previously covered by federal PSM regulations must be completed within three years of the rule’s effective date.
  • Management of Organizational Changes (MOOCs): A team must be designated by the employer to perform MOOC assessments.  Written MOOCs with findings and recommendations are needed for changes with a duration longer than 90 days which will affect operations, engineering, maintenance, health and safety, or emergency response, including staffing levels, shift duration, or employee responsibilities.
  • Human Factors: Within 18 months of the effective date of the final rule, refiners must develop and maintain a written human factors program. Employers must include a human factors analysis as part of major changes examinations (i.e., Management of Change (MOC)), incident investigations, PHAs, MOOCs, and HCAs. Examples of human factors to be considered include staffing levels and turnover, training, fatigue, and task complexity.
  • Root Cause Analyses (RCA): Employers must conduct RCAs after significant accidents. Further, refiners must establish effective methods for conducting an RCA in written procedures for both investigating and reporting incidents. The RCA must include causes of the incident as well as information to prevent the recurrence of the specific incident, or incidents of a similar nature.
  • Workplace Safety Culture: Employers are required to perform an effective process safety culture assessment and produce a written report within 18 months of the proposed PSM’s effective date, and at least every five years thereafter. The proposed rule includes language that promotes the inclusion of employee collaboration when performing these assessments.
  • Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP): Washington has adopted a definition for RAGAGEP, which deviates from federal guidance, in that it points solely to codes, standards, technical reports or recommended practices published by recognized industry organizations.  It specifically excludes employers’ internal guidelines and procedures, which federal OSHA has often interpreted as binding RAGAGEP.

Important Dates

L&I intends to have the updated PSM rule in place before the end of the year. The public comment period is now open with comments due no later than August 24. L&I has scheduled hearings for August 10 and 17 in Bellingham, near most Washington refineries, with a virtual hearing to be held on August 15.