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HSE MATTERS

How secure are your PSM processes?

Highly hazardous chemicals such as toxics, reactives, flammable liquids and gases are used in many industries such as food processing, chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, plastics, paints, etc….  If not properly designed, maintained, and managed safely during manufacture, transport, storage, and use, these chemicals can cause disastrous incidents with significant property damage and potentially fatal-consequences. OSHA and EPA both regulate industries with chemicals over certain threshold quantities through their Process Safety Management (PSM) and the Risk Management Plan (RMP) standards,…

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Evaluating Workplace Health Exposures

Under the OSH Act, employers are required to identify and evaluate health hazard(s) in their workplaces, which includes exposures to air contaminants, chemicals, biological and physical hazards. More than 6 million workplaces in the U.S. are covered by OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PEL) established for over 500 chemicals listed in tables Z-1, Z-2, and Z-3.  Most of OSHA’s exposure limits are 8-hour time-weighted averages (TWA), however, there are short-term exposure limits (STEL) based on 15 minute exposures, ceiling or peak limits that…

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13 Elements of a Fire Door Inspection

Routine visual inspections and operational testing of fire doors is critical to a building’s maintenance and the life safety of its occupants. Fire doors inspected in accordance with the requirements set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 80, Standard for Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives, require that all fire door assemblies be inspected not less than annually, after installation and maintenance work. Visual inspections and operational…

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Conducting Effective Hazard Assessments

Often during inspections, audits, or accident investigations, we encounter nonexistent, inadequate, or inaccurate hazard assessments. One of the “root causes” of workplace injuries, illnesses, and incidents is the failure to identify or recognize hazards that are present, or that could have been anticipated.  A critical element of any effective safety and health program is a proactive, ongoing process to identify and assess hazards. OSHA requires that hazard assessments be performed in many standards including, but…

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6 Benefits of Partnering to Improve HSE Performance 

Businesses most valuable assets are their workforce.  As such, managing health, safety, and environmental (HSE) aspects and impacts play a critical role in managing a business.  However, for many businesses, managing an HSE system is often overwhelming trying to navigate complex and everchanging regulations, and often do not have the resources to manage internally. For many smaller to mid-sized companies, the responsibilities of managing HSE aspects and impacts often fall on human resources, supervisors, or…

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Major Benefits of Third Party Inspections & Audits 

Performing routine inspections and periodic audits are essential for a company to implement a process that assesses risk and liabilities while developing accurate policies, procedures, and training to continuously improve HSE performance.  Inspections (hazard identification) and audits (program evaluation) are critical to the successful implementation of an effective and continuously improving HSE management system.    Inspections of workplace hazards must be integrated into a company’s HSE program to ensure that hazards are appropriately identified, evaluated (severity,…

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EPA News

- Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP)

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule that would improve reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) by, among other proposed changes, eliminating an exemption that allows facilities to avoid reporting information on PFAS when those chemicals are used in small, or de minimis, concentrations. Because PFAS are used at low concentrations in many products, this rule would ensure that covered industry sectors and federal facilities that make or use TRI-listed PFAS will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid disclosing their PFAS releases and other waste management quantities for these chemicals.

“PFAS continue to pose an urgent threat to our country and communities deserve to know if they may be exposed because of the way these chemicals are being managed, recycled, or released,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “By removing this reporting loophole, we’re advancing the work set out in the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap and ensuring that companies report information for even small concentrations of PFAS. We’ll make this information available to the public so EPA and other federal, state and local agencies can use it to help best protect health and the environment.”

This proposal reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to address the impacts of these forever chemicals, and advances EPA’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS.

TRI data are reported to EPA annually by facilities in certain industry sectors and federal facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use TRI-listed chemicals above certain quantities. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or otherwise managed as waste. Information collected through TRI allows communities to learn how facilities in their area are managing listed chemicals. The data collected also help support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public.

The 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) immediately added certain PFAS to the list of chemicals covered by TRI for the 2021 reporting year and provided a framework to automatically add other PFAS in future years. The NDAA established TRI manufacturing, processing, and otherwise use reporting thresholds of 100 pounds for each of these listed PFAS. However, the previous Administration codified the NDAA provisions in a manner that allows facilities that report to TRI to disregard certain minimal or de minimis concentrations of chemicals in mixtures or trade name products (below 1% concentration for each of the TRI-listed PFAS, except for PFOA for which the concentration is set at 0.1%).

The proposed rule released today would eliminate the availability of that exemption and require facilities to report on PFAS regardless of their concentration in products.

Currently, facilities are required to report to TRI on 180 PFAS per the requirements of the NDAA. However, in data submitted to EPA in 2021 and 2022, fewer facilities reported PFAS to TRI than expected. In response, EPA conducted outreach, and many facilities contacted claimed the de minimis exemption as a reason for not reporting. The rule proposed today would list PFAS as “chemicals of special concern,” which would make them ineligible for the de minimis exemption.

If finalized, this proposal would also make the de minimis exemption unavailable for purposes of supplier notification requirements to downstream facilities for all chemicals on the list of chemicals of special concern, which also includes certain persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, and dioxins. This change will help ensure that purchasers of mixtures and trade name products containing these chemicals are informed of their presence in mixtures and products they purchase.

Learn more about the proposal.

- Region 02

NEW YORK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is requiring Port Hamilton Refining and Transportation LLLP (PHRT) to hire experts to safely remove chemicals that are not being properly managed at the facility in equipment that EPA had identified as being of concern after an EPA inspection. The Order on Consent requires full access for EPA to be on-site to oversee the work and safety measures in the short term until the chemicals are removed or secured.

“Ensuring the communities near this refinery are protected is front and center in all our work. This consent order will ensure the removal of the ammonia, liquified petroleum gas and other chemicals,” said Lisa F. Garcia, EPA Regional Administrator. “We are holding this facility to the same standards that we hold any refinery or industrial facility – meaning they must not pose a serious risk to workers or community members, and they must follow our environmental laws. EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, and our commitment to advance EJ in this community is unwavering.”

Under a consent order using Clean Air Act authorities, PHRT will remove all ammonia, liquified petroleum gas (or LPG), amines and hydrogen sulfide from the equipment at the facility. These chemicals have been used for refinery processes.

In addition, the agreement requires PHRT to take certain interim measures, beginning immediately, during the period before the materials are addressed, including increased monitoring and inspections of the systems containing the amine, ammonia and LPG, and actions to improve emergency preparedness. Over 40,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia are reported to be at the refinery. Piping and many valves on the liquified petroleum gas (LPG) unit are in an advanced state of corrosion and disrepair. The equipment contains over 37,000 pounds of LPG.

The Order on Consent requires the work to be performed by a qualified contractor to assess the systems containing anhydrous ammonia, LPG, amine, and hydrogen sulfide and determine how to safely remove those chemicals. Once a contractor is approved by EPA, that contractor has thirty days to perform an assessment of the three systems and propose options for the safe removal of the chemicals. The contractors will provide its options report to EPA within seven days of completing these actions. EPA will review the report and provide any comments. Work on the removal must start within five days of EPA’s approval. The order also requires reports to be submitted to EPA during and upon the completion of work. The order provides for EPA’s oversight of all work and contains enforcement provisions.

In September, EPA inspected the refinery to determine the general state of chemical safety at the facility. During the inspection, EPA inspectors identified safety concerns, including corrosion of piping and valves, that could result in a chemical release or fire, particularly in areas where large quantities of ammonia, LPG, and amine and hydrogen sulfide are located.

EPA alerted the company to the deficiencies and issued a detailed inspection report, which was also shared with the public. Today’s action addresses the most serious of those issues first and EPA will continue its work to address other environmental issues at the refinery going forward.

EPA also set up a toll-free community hotline (866) 462-4789, developed a dedicated website, and is engaging regularly with the community. 

To read more about EPA’s work at this refinery, visit Refinery on St. Croix.

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- Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA)

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a proposed Clear Air Act settlement with Republic Steel, a steel manufacturer in Canton, Ohio, which will require the company to reduce its facility’s lead emissions that have caused airborne lead levels in the surrounding area to exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Lead. The settlement terms are included in a proposed consent decree filed today with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. In addition to securing air pollution reductions, the settlement requires Republic Steel to pay a $990,000 civil penalty.

The United States’ complaint, filed simultaneously with the consent decree, alleges that Republic Steel is operating in violation of its Clean Air Act permit for failing to conduct emissions tests and for exceeding lead emission limits. Under the consent decree, Republic Steel will install and operate new control technologies at its Flexcast Vacuum Tank Degasser and associated cooling tower to reduce lead emissions from the facility. EPA estimates that the new controls will result in the reduction of over 1,000 pounds of lead emissions per year. 

“Even relatively low levels of lead exposure can cause harm to a child’s cognitive development,” said Larry Starfield, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.  “This settlement will help protect local communities, and particularly children, by lowering airborne lead levels.”

“This is an important settlement and reflects our continuing commitment to enforce vigorously the Clean Air Act to protect public health, the environment, and the most vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Exposure to lead pollution can affect almost every organ and system in the human body. It is especially harmful to young children, as they are most susceptible to some adverse effects of lead.  This is of significance here, as there is a residential community with three schools within a one-mile radius of the Republic Steel facility. Additionally, this is an area with environmental justice concerns.  

The settlement is subject to a public comment period that will end on Jan. 13, 2023, and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing at https://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.

Chemical Safety Board News

The CSB’s Safety Video on the 2019 Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery Fire and Explosions Reaches One Million Views in Just a Week
October 2022
“Wake Up Call: Refinery Disaster in Philadelphia”