June 15th, 2016
In May 2016, OSHA issued a new Letter of Interpretation for the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard's Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP) requirements originally outlined in the PSM Standard (29 CFR 1910.119). OSHA notes that this “memorandum rescinds and replaces the memorandum of the same title dated June 5, 2015.” It is intended to clarify OSHA’s policy but does not include any substantive changes to their enforcement policy related to RAGAGEPs.
OSHA does a good job of adding details into the policy that we as practitioners have known for quite some time. The details provided help in making requirements clearer. There is a lot of good information in the revised policy. I just want to touch on a few things here.
The first important change to note is this document is now referred to as an “Enforcement Policy” rather than a letter of interpretation or memorandum. There can no longer be any doubt or misinterpretation that the information provided is a requirement rather than just a guideline.
Secondly, it is well known that the PSM regulation is considered a “performance oriented standard.” That means that the regulation does not necessarily outline exactly what you have to do. The Standard defines what has to be accomplished, but it doesn’t tell you exactly how you get there. Instead, it is up to the Employer to decide which codes, standards and practices it will put in place, implement and monitor.
Both the 2015 and 2016 versions of the policy provide examples of RAGAGEPs, but the 2016 version clearly states that the items provided in the policy are “examples” and that “employers select the RAGAGEPs they apply in their covered processes” and then demonstrate that they are meeting them. It also notes that there may be more than one code or standard necessary to meet all of the hazards presented by a particular process.
Both versions state that an employer should not “cherry pick” the provisions of codes and standards because codes and standards are meant to be implemented as a whole. Selectively choosing a portion of a code or standard could result in inadequate control of a process hazard. But, the 2016 version also acknowledges that internal standards incorporating select provisions may be adequate, but OSHA would review these on an individual basis.
Lastly, documentation is key. I think we all already knew this. But oftentimes, when reviewing inspection and testing procedures, there is no mention of where the inspection and test schedule came from. The 2016 policy clearly states that OSHA compliance officers will review the employer’s written inspection and testing procedures to determine the selected RAGAGEP.
Identifying all the source documents (e.g., codes, standards, etc.) in the company’s written procedures is a must. It cannot be “understood” that refrigeration systems comply with IIAR standards, it must be stated as such in a procedure, and the standards must be referenced.
To read the entire memorandum on the OSHA website, click here.
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