Category: PSM / RMP (Page 1 of 9)

Digging Yourself Out of a Hole

(What to do when you are suddenly responsible for years of Process Safety neglect.)

It’s a scene I come across time and time again: a newly assigned PSM/RMP coordinator staring at me with shock as we progress through their Compliance Audit, Process Hazard Analysis, or 5yr Independent Mechanical Integrity Inspection.

“I didn’t know things were this bad!” they’ll say under their breath, once the situation starts to become a little clearer to them. You can imagine them standing at the bottom of a deep, dark hole wondering how they’ll ever make it back to fresh air and bright sunshine they thought was all around them just a few hours ago. For those of you that have read my previous post on the “Stages of PSM Grief,” this is the moment they are breaking past the Denial stage.

It can be heartbreaking to watch the mixture of Anger, Bargaining and Depression, especially if you remember what it felt like to be there yourself.

Often, I will have to re-assure them that this is just the start of the process and the beginning isn’t going to be fun. Sometimes I’ll quote Winston Churchill.

 

 

What’s really important is that we understand there will be a way out if we remain calm and plan intelligently. Unsurprisingly, you need a process to address Process Safety issues

So, let’s start planning our escape!  We’re going to move slowly at first, with ever-increasing confidence, and once we get rolling we’re going to start seeing daylight.

Here’s how our progression will look:

  • Assess the situation
  • Prioritize the issues
  • Formulate the plans & assign responsibility
  • Implement, Implement, Implement!

 

Part 1: Assess the situation

Obviously, if you are in the middle of (or have just gone though) an audit or inspection, you’re well on the way! If you are recently assigned to this coordinator role and you don’t have a recent compliance audit, PHA, and MI report, then these are good places to start.

Assessment is really two parts which can share the same ground.

  • Compliance: Where you are in relation to where you need to be.
  • Culture: Where you are in relation to where you want to be.

I can’t stress this enough – being compliant is not some lofty place. It is the bare minimum of safety allowed under the law. How far past “my company isn’t violating federal and state law” you want to go depends a lot on the culture of your organization. For example, companies with a brand to protect tend to aim a lot higher than those that don’t. Companies that are barely making ends meet tend not to have a lot of resources to bring to bear on things that aren’t strictly required.

Recently, based on a conversation with colleagues, I half-jokingly formulated what I called the Haywood / Chapin Process Safety performance scale as a visual tool. Note that you get a score of zero for being compliant because that’s the baseline. We’re not going to go around congratulating each other for not violating Federal and State laws. Additionally, we aren’t going to give ourselves any credit for trying – only for results: Safety & compliance aren’t kindergarten so we aren’t giving out participation trophies.

Note: It’s common at this point to try and figure out how the company got themselves in this hole, but there is usually very little of value that comes out of this conversation. If the same people, and the same processes are in place, don’t expect different results unless they are willing to change. Don’t get your hopes up just because people want to change. What matters is if they are willing to put in the work to change. If only wanting to change was enough to effect change, nobody (including me) would be carrying around a few extra pounds.

 

Part 2: Prioritize the issues

All right. Now you have collected all the deficiencies so you know the ground you need to cover to get where you want to be – or, in our analogy, how far it is to get out of the hole you are in. Now we need to figure out in what order we need address these issues. Hopefully, your audits have given you some guidance here. For example, this is the color code I use for my compliance audits:

Obviously in this scheme, we’d focus our efforts on the red items, then the orange, etc. You will want to prioritize the actions you take based on the risk to your employees, your community and your business. I strive to get the “buy-in” from the audit team during the audit itself so this step is pretty much done for you. However, you may have a lot of findings & recommendations to deal with so further prioritization can be useful.

 

Part 3: Formulate the plans & assign responsibility

Formulating the plan(s) is one of the most difficult parts of the whole endeavor: How do we address all the issues we’ve found? We’re going to use a few strategies to help us formulate our plan:

  1. Group where appropriate
  2. Don’t reinvent the wheel
  3. Don’t make Perfect the enemy of the Good
  4. Leverage strengths & Avoid weaknesses

Grouping: One thing you may find is that a common root cause means you can group items. For example, if I have a poorly constructed MI inspection with 600 pipe label recommendations I can view each of those as individual recommendations or I can decide that the root cause is that we don’t have a system to ensure adequate pipe labeling. For me, I’d rather put a system in place to address that widespread deficiency than rely on just fixing the issues someone else found thus ensuring I’ll need them to find them next time too! For the example of pipe labeling, I would train my operating staff on the requirements of IIAR B114 and place a label check in the annual unit inspection work order. Properly implemented that system ensures that the issue will be addressed in the next year and will continue to be addressed regularly thereafter.

Don’t reinvent: There’s plenty of freely available templates for nearly all programs, procedures, work orders, etc. you may need. Don’t waste your time creating a policy or procedure from scratch when you can often use a pre-made one to address the issue with little or no change.

Don’t make Perfect the enemy of the Good: Sometimes altering a simple policy that solves the problem 99% of the time to one that solves it 100% of the time turns it into a lengthy and confusing mess. Policies and procedures aren’t meant to completely replace independent thought – they should be designed to guide it. We should bias our efforts towards “good enough” at first and strive towards perfection over time with continuous improvement.

Leverage Strengths & Avoid Weaknesses: Tasks should be assigned to people based on their competencies. For example,  if you have a good core competency in your staff for writing SOPs, then by all means go ahead and write them. But if you don’t have anyone with that experience, maybe outsource that issue so their time is spent on the things they are already good at. Using a stock template and the needed PSI, my personal average for SOPs is about 1.5 hours. I’ve seen relatively competent people take 10 hours or more on the same SOP. The difference is that I wrote the template and have used it thousands of times. On the other hand, I’ve been known to take 3x as long as a skilled operator to change oil filters on a compressor because I’ve only done it a handful of times.

Assigning Responsibility is crucial. What we want is to have someone own the solution. Even if you assign a task to an outside consultant or contractor, make sure someone in-house is assigned the responsibility for the task to ensure they keep that 3rd party in-line and on-schedule.

Also keep in mind that this is a great place in this process to manage expectations. Often a facility has been neglecting their PSM duties for decades but seems shocked that the newly assigned PSM coordinator can’t solve the problem in a few weeks. Let’s just say that if it took 10 years to dig the hole, it’s not realistic to expect anyone to dig you out of it quickly.

 

Part 4: Implement, Implement, Implement!

Prussian military commander Helmuth van Moltke is famous for saying that “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” You are never going to get anywhere until you go out there and start implementing your plans. You can’t build a reputation on what you plan to do. 

Don’t be hesitant to reassess and change the plan if things aren’t going well.

One of the most important things you can do during this part of the process is having regular PSM meetings. Make sure everyone assigned a task is asked about their progress. It may seem like a waste of time, but it’s also a good practice to go over the things you have already accomplished. I recommend this for two reasons:

  • It gives everyone a chance to confirm that the implemented solution to the issue worked
  • It reminds you that progress is being made and you will eventually get out of the hole if you keep on!

 

 

As always, if there is anything we can do to help, please contact us!

How Many Operators do we Need?

Disclaimer: This post is a collaboration between an industry friend and colleague, Victor Dearman and I. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever which we have been, are now, or will be affiliated.

It’s a question we hear often – sometimes as part of a PHA or Compliance Audit, but more often with someone just struggling to justify their staffing requests. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a simple, definitive answer to the question. No controlling RAGAGEP exists and state / local laws on the topic are relatively rare. This sort of problem isn’t rare in PSM because it is a performance-based standard. Our performance basis is that we are staffed sufficiently to ensure the safety of the people within the building and the surrounding community.

We need to answer the “How many Operators do we need?” question in a way that we can support it, or as we like to say, “Build a defensible case for the answer we arrive at. The answer itself will depend on many, many factors. So, let’s go on a journey and see how we can arrive at an answer we can feel confident in.

 

The road to an answer

The biggest factor for many is the design (age!?) of the system controls. A modern system with advanced controls requires less oversight on a day-to-day basis. If your system still relies on manual controls and people writing down pressures every hour, then that’s going to have a significant impact on your staffing needs. But once we get past that obvious issue, things get a bit more complicated.

Let’s be honest here, if things are running well; you have a good history with compliance audits, inspections, incident investigations, etc. and a low MI backlog, you’re probably not asking this question. If you are asking this question, it is probably due to an event related to a PSM/RMP element.

Let’s look at the kinds of element events that typically lead to this question.

  • Employee Participation
  • Mechanical Integrity
  • Incident Investigations
  • Management of Change / Pre-Startup Safety Review
  • Process Hazard Analysis
  • Emergency Action and Response Plans

 

Employee Participation: Look, everyone feels over-burdened at work, especially in the modern “Do MORE with LESS” era. But, if you pay attention to it, and look at these other elements, this employee feedback can provide valuable insights into the adequacy of your staffing.

 

Mechanical Integrity: What we’re looking for here is to understand if you have the skill sets and staffing to adequately maintain your refrigeration system. Whether you do everything in-house, or have a small in-house small crew performing basic rounds and contract out all the rest of the maintenance, inspections, and tests, is it adequate?

Here’s some MI related questions you might ask to help you determine if your staffing is adequate:

    • Are we properly implementing our Line & Equipment Opening (sometimes known as line break) procedures?
    • Are we caught up on ITPMR’s (Inspection, Test and Preventative Maintenance Reports) or work orders?
    • Is the documentation of ITPMR’s, Work orders, Oil Logs adequate?
    • Are we performing our scheduled walk-through’s and documenting them properly?
    • Are we addressing MI recommendations in a timely manner?
    • Are there indications that maintenance of the facility and system are being conducted properly and required repairs aren’t being delayed?
    • Are there no indications in the written MI records, or in your observations, that the system is running outside the written operating limits?

 

Incident Investigations: A review of incident investigation history can tell us a lot if the facility has a good process safety culture. But if they don’t have the right culture, and /or they don’t have any documented incidents, you’re going to have to do a little detective work and interview plant employees to find out if incidents are occurring that aren’t being recorded. Remember to spread your net wide here because incidents can happen at any time, not just on day-shift: Backshifts, weekends, holidays, etc. there’s no time immune to a possible incident.

You may also find indications of incidents occurring in walk-through logs, communications logs, ITPMRs, work orders, etc.

Here’s some II related questions you might ask to help you determine if your staffing is adequate:

    • Are incidents being reported, conducted, and documented? If not, is this a culture issue or a staffing issue?
    • Are incidents and incident report findings & recommendations being addressed, communicated, and followed to their conclusion?
    • Are there incidents that could have avoided with proper staffing?
    • Are there incidents that would have their severity reduced with proper staffing?
    • Are there incident investigations with recommendations that could be addressed with proper staffing?

 

Management of Change / Pre-Startup Safety Review: Properly implementing the MOC and PSSR elements takes a lot of time! We often find that these two elements are amongst the first to “fall behind” in suboptimal staffing situations. Here’s some MOC/PSSR related questions you might ask to help you determine if your staffing is adequate:

    • Have MOCs / PSSRs been conducted when they were supposed to be?
    • Were the MOCs / PSSRs conducted adequately to properly manage the hazards related to the change and the new systems?
    • Is the documentation of MOCs / PSSRs complete?
    • Are there any open items or recommendations from MOCs, PSSRs, or project punch lists?

 

Process Hazard Analysis: The PHA and open PHA recommendations can also help us understand if our staffing levels are appropriate. There may also be indications in the PHA itself. There’s a portion of the PHA that deals with staffing directly, but we’ll deal with that in the Building a defensible case on staffing section of this article.

Here’s some PHA related questions you might ask to help you determine if your staffing is adequate:

    • Are the PHA recommendations being addressed, communicated, and followed to their conclusion?
    • Is the facility provided with modern controls, alarm systems and equipment? (Newer, modern facilities often have significantly lower staffing needs than older ones)
    • Has the PHA been updated / validated as required by MOC activities and the 5yr schedule?

 

Emergency Action and Response Plans: Whether we’re looking at the plan(s) themselves, or analyzing an after-action report, a there can be a lot to learn here concerning proper staffing levels. Obviously, the required staffing levels for Emergency Response facilities is going to be higher, but that doesn’t mean there is no staffing requirement for Emergency Action plans.

Here’s some EAP/ERP related questions you might ask to help you determine if your staffing is adequate:

    • In the event of an incidental release of ammonia, do you have adequate staffing to investigate and respond?
    • In the event of an emergency response, even if you are not a “responding” facility, do you have adequate staffing to ensure that the equipment is properly shut down?
    • If you are a “responding” facility, do you have enough adequately trained personnel to staff your response team including an Incident Commander, safety officer, decontamination personnel, two entry teams, etc.
    • If you bring key staff back on-site to deal with emergencies, are they close enough to respond in a timely manner, or do you need to increase the size of your trained response team?

 

Building a defensible case on staffing

Ok, we’ve answered our questions and gathered a good impression of where we stand – and where we should stand. Maybe we need to adjust our staffing levels and/or increase the amount of services we ask contractors to complete for us. Where should we document this? In our opinion, the place in the system where the facility already had the opportunity to address this issue, was in the PHA. So, let’s go back to the PHA, end see if our results match the PHA team’s.

You are going to be looking for the following two questions (or their equivalents) from the standard Human Factors section of the IIAR What-If /Checklist worksheets:

HF14.37 – What if an employee is stressed due to shift work and overtime schedules?

HF14.38 – What if there are not sufficient employees to properly operate the system and respond to system upsets?

During the PHA, the facility should have answered those in a way that says they have adequate staffing or recommended that staffing be increased. Let’s say you decided that you had adequate staffing based on your answers to the questions above. If that’s the case, we’d expect to see something like the following:

 

If, however, we found some areas for improvement, we might expect something like this:

 

Closing Thoughts: We hope you didn’t start reading this hoping for an easy answer, but we’re fairly certain – now that you understand the full scope of the question being asked – that the answer doesn’t need to be easy, it needs to be correct and defensible.

You can build a much better understanding of your staffing needs by looking at the existing elements in your Process Safety program. Any decent Compliance Audit would cover this same ground, if staffing is an area of concern for you, make sure to bring it up.

P.S.  from Victor: Some facilities might try and get more value from a security guard on off shifts or holiday coverage to make roving patrols and report abnormal conditions and alarms? Sure, but that also means that guard has to be trained to identify what the alarms mean, how to identify an abnormal condition, and that they know what to do to either immediately correct the deviation or immediately contact someone that can (on call techs or service providers). By the time you have invested this much into a guard, you could have paid for a well-qualified operator.

My advice to any organization when making these decisions is to evaluate the above and take into consideration the attracting well rounded operators with the skill sets and experience often sought is more often through word of mouth about how the organization projects their Process Safety culture.

How to hire operators? Well, that sounds like a good subject for a future article!

Should we perform an Incident Investigation for Hail Damage?

The Issue: Recently an industry friend reached out with a question that I thought was worth sharing. They recently had some fierce storms roll through their area that involved tennis-ball sized hail. This hail caused some insulation damage, but didn’t cause any ammonia release. Here are some pictures of the type of damage they experienced.

Hail Damage pictures

Hail Damage pictures

The question is “Would this require an Incident Investigation?”

 

The Law: As always, first we look at the law.

OSHA 29CFR1910.119(m)(1): The employer shall investigate each incident which resulted in, or could reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemical in the workplace.

EPA 40CFR68.81: The owner or operator shall investigate each incident which resulted in, or could reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release.

While there is obvious damage to the protective jacketing and vapor barrier, you could make a defensible argument that this is not something that could “reasonably have resulted in a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemical.” That’s not to say there isn’t any value to such an investigation, but that there most likely is not a requirement to investigate this incident based solely on the PSM/RMP rules. But, the rules aren’t the only guidance available to us, so let’s look further.

 

RAGAGEP and Written Programs: In my opinion, the best RAGAGEP available on the topic is the CCPS book Guidelines for Investigating Chemical Process Incidents, 2nd Edition, which is what inspired the approach we take in our Incident Investigation element Written Plan. Similarly, the IIAR’s publication PSM & RMP Guidelines makes roughly the same types of arguments and include an EPA suggestion that any damage of $50,000 or more should be investigated. If you’ve priced insulation recently, you know we’re likely to hit that threshold.

Here’s the relevant part of our Incident Investigation element Written Plan which incorporates the CCPS guidance:

An Incident is an unusual or unexpected occurrence, which either resulted in, or had the potential to result in:

  • Serious injury to personnel
  • Significant damage to property
  • Adverse environmental impacts
  • A major disruption of process operations

That definition implies three types or levels of incidents:

Accident – An occurrence where property damage, material loss, detrimental environmental impact or human injury occurs. (off-site Ammonia release, product in freezer exposed to ammonia, personnel injury, etc.)

Near Miss – An occurrence when an accident could have happened if the circumstances were slightly different. We sometimes call these incidents “An Accident where something went right”. (Forklift strikes an air unit causing only cosmetic damage and no Ammonia is released, an activation of an automatic shutdown, etc.)

Process Upset / Interruption – An occurrence where the process was interrupted. (Vessel high-level alarm, a nuisance ammonia odor report, ice buildup on an air unit preventing it from cooling properly, failing to conduct required PSM activities as scheduled, etc. Many Process Interruptions are fixed before the event leads to a shutdown. If the equipment was shut down manually or automatically in response to an unexpected occurrence, then the incident is to be investigated as a Near Miss.

This storm damage would seem to trigger the “Significant damage to property” part of the Incident definition and classify it as an Accident due to “property damage.” In accordance with the relevant RAGAGEP and our element Written Plan, we’d expect you to conduct an Incident Investigation despitedefensible argument that the PSM/RMP rules do not require one.

 

What we accomplish with an Incident Investigation: With a formal assessment of the incident, we’re hoping to document the following:

  1. The safeguards in place were adequate such that an ammonia release did not occur;
  2. The damage was investigated and found to be largely cosmetic with no significant effect on integrity, and limited effect on efficiency;
  3. Provide a documented recommendation to address the damage, both in the long term (replacement/repair) and short-term (sealing up any vapor barrier tears with caulking for example);
  4. Provide a method of tracking the identified corrective actions to closure.

Conclusion: While it seems pretty clear the PSM/RMP rules themselves wouldn’t require an Incident Investigation, RAGAGEP would and there’s much to be gained from one.

Powered Industrial Trucks in Machine Rooms

Powered Industrial Trucks (PIT) in Machine Rooms are a known struck-by hazard.  What most people don’t realize is how serious the results of a PIT impact in a Machinery Room can be.

For example, a forklift / scissor lift impact that shears a 3″ TSS (ThermoSyphon Supply) or HPL (High Pressure Liquid) operating at a typical head pressure of 160PSIG results in a release rate of over 18,500 pounds per minute.

Many facilities attempt to establish a ban on PIT in their machinery rooms, but while the needs for PIT in machine rooms are very limited, there are situations where they are necessary. An outright ban won’t likely survive prolonged contact with reality.

To address this issue in a PHA, we usually recommend a Written Machine Room PIT policy as an administrative control. For years we’ve discussed the content of that policy informally with people. Recently a PSM coordinator shared her written policy & permit with us and after some alterations and formatting, we’re adding it to the SOP Templates section.

Front of the Permit:

Back of the Permit with additional explanations:

 

As always, you can find this on the Google Shared template drive.

Compliance in a time of COVID-19 Pandemic

The whole country is facing a very difficult situation right now as we all deal with both the COVID-19 disease and the effects of government’s response to it. Some customers (especially restaurant service) are seeing a 2/3rds drop in their business. Other sectors, such as Grocery, are seeing unprecedented demand. Either way, that’s a recipe for chaos.

One of the first cultural victims of chaos is usually the safety / regulatory community. We’re easy to ignore whether the reason is “we’re facing layoffs and bankruptcy” or “orders are up 300% and we don’t have time for this.”

On top of that, in a good-faith effort to re-assure the regulated community that they understand the burdens we’re under right now, the EPA drafted a policy saying they would use discretion on compliance during the pandemic.

That EPA policy was interpreted by some (the environmental lobby mostly) as a blanket waiver of all regulations allowing the regulated community to pollute at will. More significantly worrying to me personally was the calls, emails & texts I started getting Friday where people in our refrigeration community were being “told” this temporary EPA policy was being used to avoid compliance with their PSM / RMP obligations.

With that in mind, let’s look at what it actually says, shall we?

 

What is the EPA actually saying?

Here’s the actual EPA press release. Here’s the actual EPA guidance memorandum. Here’s the important part:

  1. Entities should make every effort to comply with their environmental compliance obligations.
  2. If compliance is not reasonably practicable, facilities with environmental compliance obligations should:
    1. Act responsibly under the circumstances in order to minimize the effects and duration of any noncompliance caused by COVID-19;
    2. Identify the specific nature and dates of the noncompliance;
    3. Identify how COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance, and the decisions and actions taken in response, including best efforts to comply and steps taken to come into compliance at the earliest opportunity;
    4. Return to compliance as soon as possible; and
    5. Document the information, action, or condition specified in a. through d

The consequences of the pandemic may constrain the ability of regulated entities to perform routine compliance monitoring,  integrity testing, sampling,  laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification. … In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that COVID-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.

 

What does that mean for us in  PSM/RMP covered processes?

Short answer: Not a lot. Long answer follows…

 

Here’s some examples of what it might let you avoid a fine for:

  • Getting an annual compressor vibration analysis a few weeks late because all your contractor’s technicians were ill due to COVID-19
  • Performing a routine MI inspection late because your technicians were ill due to COVID-19.
  • Delaying some training, a compliance audit, PHA revalidation, etc. because of COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

 

Here’s some examples of what it definitely WILL NOT let you avoid a fine for:

  • Starting up equipment without a proper Pre-Startup Safety Review. (If you have time to start it, you have time to check it)
  • Making changes without implementing your written Management of Change policy. (If you have time to change it, you have time to do so safely)
  • Addressing existing recommendations and known problems.
    • If your SOPs have been out of compliance since IIAR 7 was published in 2013, this memo is NOT going to help you avoid fines because COVID-19 doesn’t explain the delay.
    • If your PHA hasn’t been updated to reflect the 2012 IIAR Compliance guidance, this memo is NOT going to help you avoid fines because COVID-19 doesn’t explain the delay.
    • If you haven’t provided documentation that your Operators and/or Contractors are properly trained, this memo is NOT going to help you avoid fines because COVID-19 doesn’t explain the delay.
    • If you have rusted pipes, and have for several years, but you still haven’t gotten around to dealing with them, this memo is NOT going to help you avoid fines because COVID-19 doesn’t explain the delay.
  • Delaying, or failing to report a release of ammonia. It does not affect the requirements to REPORT releases.

Accidental Releases: Nothing in this temporary policy relieves any entity from the responsibility to prevent, respond to, or report accidental releases of oil, hazardous substances, hazardous chemicals, hazardous waste, and other pollutants, as required by federal law, or should be read as a willingness to exercise enforcement discretion in the wake of such a release.

 

Closing thoughts

Unless you are in a very unique position, this EPA memo means very little to you at all. Here’s examples of two clients that it does affect:

  • Scheduled 5yr MI delayed: The client has delayed their scheduled 5yr MI inspection & audit because of travel restrictions in their state. Their intent is to schedule it as soon as it is reasonably safe to do so once this pandemic has passed. If they document how COVID-19 caused this delay, this memo helps them feel confident that the EPA understands the issue.
  • Compliance Audits delayed: The client still has until June to meet their 3yr date but had to delay their scheduled March compliance audits due to travel restrictions. Assuming the issue has passed, and they can reschedule before they hit their June requirement, they have no issue at all. If the issue continues such that they will not be able to complete their 3yr compliance audits before the deadline this EPA policy helps them if:
    1. The audit activities that can be done remotely are done before the 3yr date, and
    2. The audit activities that cannot be done remotely are done as soon as reasonably possible after the pandemic has passed. They will also need to document how COVID-19 caused this delay.

IIAR 2 202x Public Review 1

The IIAR has released a proposed draft of IIAR 2 Safety Standard for Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems for public review. Here’s the notice:

March 20th, 2020

To:

IIAR Members

Re:

First (1st) Public Review of Standard BSR/IIAR 2-202x, Safety Standard for Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems.

A first (1st) public review of draft standard BSR/IIAR 2-202x, Safety Standard for Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems is now open. The International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) invites you to make comments on the draft standard. Substantive changes resulting from this public review will also be provided for comment in a future public review if necessary.

BSR/IIAR 2-202x specifies the minimum safety criteria for design of closed-circuit ammonia refrigeration systems. It presupposes that the persons who use the document have a working knowledge of the functionality of ammonia refrigerating system(s) and basic ammonia refrigerating practices and principles. This standard is intended for those who develop, define, implement and/or review the design of ammonia refrigeration systems. This standard shall apply only to closed-circuit refrigeration systems utilizing ammonia as the refrigerant. It is not intended to supplant existing safety codes (e.g., model mechanical or fire codes) where provisions in these may take precedence.

IIAR has designated the revised standard as BSR/IIAR 2-202x. Upon approval by the ANSI Board of Standards Review, the standard will receive a different name that reflects this approval date.

We invite you to participate in the first (1st) public review of BSR/IIAR 2-202x. IIAR will use the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) procedures to develop evidence of consensus among affected parties. ANSI’s role in the revision process is to establish and enforce standards of openness, balance, due process and harmonization with other American and International Standards. IIAR is the ANSI-accredited standards developer for BSR/IIAR 2-202x, and is responsible for the technical content of the standard.

This site includes links to the following attachments:

The 45-day public review period will be from March 20th, 2020 to May 4th, 2020. Comments are due no later than May 4th, 2020.

Thank you for your interest in the public review of BSR/IIAR 2-202x, Safety Standard for Design of Closed-Circuit Ammonia Refrigeration Systems.

There are MANY proposed changes. I’ll include a full list of the proposed changes at the end of the post, but here are some highlights:

  • Requirements for System Signage became a little simpler
  • Ammonia detection requirements have changed
    • Most installations now need two detectors in a machine room
    • Installation & Testing for detectors outside machine rooms now refer to external RAGAGEPs.
    • “Level 1” detection now requires liquid & hot gas shutoff at 150ppm
    • Requires AHJ approval if not installing ammonia detection in “Areas Other than Machinery Rooms”
  • New requirements for permanently installed Hoses and Corrugated Metal Fittings to ensure they meet ISO 10380 or ARPM IP-14

 

It’s important that YOU read these changes and make your voice heard if you have any input on them. 

 

Full change list of the normative sections of the standard below…


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CSB’s NEW Chemical Incident Reporting Rule is FINAL

“U.S. Chemical Safety Board and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has approved a final rule on accidental release reporting. The CSB has posted a prepublication version of the final rule… The official version should be published early next week in the Federal Register.

The rule requires prompt reports to the CSB from owners or operators of facilities that experience an accidental release of a regulated substance or extremely hazardous that results in a death, serious injury or substantial property damage. The CSB anticipates that these reports will provide the agency with key information important to the CSB in making prompt deployment decisions…

The rule is required by the CSB’s enabling legislation but was not issued during the first 20 years of CSB operations. Last year, a court ordered the CSB to finalize a rule within a year. “

What it means: If the incident resulted in Death, Serious Injury or Substantial Property Damage ($1kk or more) then you have to report the incident to the CSB (via phone 202- 261-7600 or email report@csb.gov) within 30 minutes. The report must include:

1604.4 Information required in an accidental release report submitted to the CSB
1604.4 The report required under §1604.3(c) must include the following information regarding an accidental release as applicable:
1604.4(a) The name of, and contact information for, the owner/operator;
1604.4(b) The name of, and contact information for, the person making the report;
1604.4(c) The location information and facility identifier;
1604.4(d) The approximate time of the accidental release;
1604.4(e) A brief description of the accidental release;
1604.4(f) An indication whether one or more of the following has occurred: (1) fire; (2) explosion; (3) death; (4) serious injury; or (5) property damage.
1604.4(g) The name of the material(s) involved in the accidental release, the Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number(s), or other appropriate identifiers;
1604.4(h) If known, the amount of the release;
1604.4(i) If known, the number of fatalities;
1604.4(j) If known, the number of serious injuries;
1604.4(k) Estimated property damage at or outside the stationary source;
1604.4(l) Whether the accidental release has resulted in an evacuation order impacting members of the general public and others, and, if known:
1604.4(l)(1) the number of persons evacuated;
1604.4(l)(2) approximate radius of the evacuation zone;
1604.4(l)(3) the type of person subject to the evacuation order (i.e., employees, members of the general public, or both).

The good news is that if you have to report the incident to the NRC then you can skip reporting all the above data and simply report the NRC case number you’re given during the NRC call.

This new requirement takes effect 30 days from the posting in the Federal Register so ACT NOW. It’s important that you update your program because there are enforcement penalties associated with not following this new rule…

1604.5(b) Violation of this part is subject to enforcement pursuant to the authorities of 42 U.S.C. 7413 and 42 U.S.C. 7414, which may include
1604.5(b)(1) Administrative penalties;
1604.5(b)(2) Civil action; or
1604.5(b)(3) Criminal action.

 

What should I do? 

If you use the template program, the hard work has already been done FOR YOU. Just open up the template directory on Google Drive and follow these steps for your program:

  • In \Reference\ add new directory \Reference\CSB\ and place “CSB Reporting Accidental Releases – prepublicationcopy 020320.pdf” in it. You can get it from the templates directory or from the EPA link.
  • In \Reference\CFR\ add “40CFR1604 – Hazardous substances Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.doc” from the templates directory.
  • Update the Incident Investigation element Written Plan to the 020720 version from the templates directory.
  • Update the \01 – EPA RMP\ Definitions file to the 020720 version from the templates directory.
  • Train all Responsible Persons and affected management on the new policies.
  • Document the changes in your DOC-Cert in accordance with the Implementation Policy: Managing Procedure / Document Changes found in the MOC/PSSR element Written Plan.

Note: If you have instructions for Agency Notifications somewhere outside your Incident Investigation plan, you’ll need to update them to include the CSB contact information there too. Feel free to use the text in the Incident Investigation element Written Plan, Implementation Policy: Agency Notifications.

 

Why use the “buddy system” during Line Openings?

Most LEO (Line & Equipment Opening) policy a.k.a. “Line Break” policies require a second person away from the work but in the immediate area. It is reasonable to ask why the procedure demands this.

Put as simply as possible:

  1. PSM/RMP and IIAR 7 require procedures for Line & Equipment Openings. (or IIAR 7 alone if you have under 10k pounds)
  2. The PHA asks questions that identify hazards which result in administrative controls aka procedures. Those procedures will have to control the unique hazards identified in the PHA.
  3. RAGAGEP for procedures (such as IIAR 7) require the buddy system be addressed in Line & Equipment Opening procedures.
  4. HazMat & Firefighting history show it is useful.
  5. Human Nature tells us that people tend to hold each other accountable.

 

Let’s work through this step-by-step

1. PSM/RMP requires us to have a procedure:

1910.119(f)(4) The employer shall develop and implement safe work practices to provide for the control of hazards during operations such as lockout/tagout; confined space entry; opening process equipment or piping; and control over entrance into a facility by maintenance, contractor, laboratory, or other support personnel. These safe work practices shall apply to employees and contractor employees.

Put another way: We have to develop a written procedure on Line & Equipment Openings which everyone must follow.

 

2. Hazards identified during a PHA are often controlled with Administrative controls, such as SOPs. SOP content therefore must address the hazards identified in the PHA. Some examples:

…the Ammonia exposure increases while the operator is using an APR/SCBA? (II.8) This is what makes us mandate the use of a personal NH3 detector during line openings and leak investigations.

…there is inadequate isolation prior to maintenance? (HF.3) …the Ammonia pump-out for a length of piping or for a piece of equipment is incomplete? (PO.1) This is why SOPs include a pressure check to confirm pumpdown. This is also why the LEO procedure (and permit) require a written SOP & permit to check the effectiveness of the procedure.

…an injured worker is unable to summon assistance? (HF.56) This (among other reasons) is why we require a Buddy System. The LEO policy, in the General Precautions section, states “A buddy-system is used for all LEO procedures. The second person must be trained to initiate emergency action and must be stationed close enough to observe the activity but far enough away to ensure that they would not be endangered by an accidental release.”

 

3. The RAGAGEP for procedures IIAR 7-2019 has this requirement:

4.4.2 Buddy System. Operating procedures shall indicate when the buddy system shall be practiced in performing work on the ammonia refrigeration system

A4.4.2-The buddy system should be practiced for operations where there is the potential that ammonia could be released, for example, operations which involve opening ammonia refrigeration equipment or piping. The buddy system should also be practiced during emergency operations involving ammonia releases.

 

4. HazMat & Firefighting history: Hazardous Materials teams and Firefighters have long used a 2-person team for increased safety. To some degree, this is enshrined in OSHA rules in 1910.134(g)(3)…

1910.134(g)(3) Procedures for IDLH atmospheres. For all IDLH atmospheres, the employer shall ensure that:

1910.134(g)(3)(i) One employee or, when needed, more than one employee is located outside the IDLH atmosphere;

1910.134(g)(3)(ii) Visual, voice, or signal line communication is maintained between the employee(s) in the IDLH atmosphere and the employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmosphere;

While we don’t INTEND to work inside a IDLH atmosphere during a LEO procedure, the possibility certainly exists if something goes wrong. The “buddy system” allows the person performing the LEO to focus on the work while the second person remains in the area situationally aware and ready to respond in the event that the situation changes or something goes wrong.

 

5. Human Nature: The LEO policy is written around accountability. The policy requires that we demonstrate to a second person that we’ve followed the policy and adequately prepared for the work before the LEO occurs.  The “buddy system” tends to keep the actions “in-line” during the actual work.

Note: While it’s certainly possible  – from a regulatory view – that you could have certain specific LEO procedures that did not require a “buddy,” you would have to be able to document how you managed to address all of the issues outlined above without the second person.

Thanks to Bryan Haywood of SaftEng.net and Gary Smith of ASTI (Ammonia Safety Training Institute) for their time and thoughts in helping review this post.

Trump EPA goes LIVE with new RMP rule: Is this finally the end of the saga?

The story so far…

Dec 2016: Outgoing Obama EPA releases changes to the RMP rule on the way out the door.

Apr 2017: Incoming Trump EPA puts the RMP rule changes on hold.

Jun 2017: Trump EPA further delays the RMP rule changes.

May 2018: Trump EPA proposes new RMP rule changes, reversing Obama changes.

Aug 2018: DC District Court reverses Trump Rule and re-instates Obama rule essentially making it the existing rule with compliance dates in the past. Trump EPA is basically told that it can change the rules, but it needs to follow different procedures to do that. Trump admin appeals and the rule changes are put on hold.

Sep 2018: Trump admin loses appeals. Obama RMP rule changes are officially LIVE. Trump EPA announces that they will follow the different procedures and change the rule the right way. (Not-so-secretly, the entire EPA is told NOT to enforce the new rule, but out of an abundance of caution, most RMP adherents implement the changes anyway. After all, it IS the law.)

Dec 2019: Trump EPA officially posts the new rule and places it in the CFR making it LIVE on 12/19/19. (See links at the end of the post)

 

So, where do we stand now?

Ok, we’ve got a new RMP rule. It appears to have gone through the correct rulemaking process. It’s been published in the Federal Register making it the law of the land.

 

So, what do we do now?

Well, let’s be honest; the Trump administration IS GOING TO GET SUED over this. What happens then? Who knows!? If you follow the courts in modern America, you know there is very little that can be accurately forecasted.

What we do know is that we have a new rule. The new rule appears to have been done correctly with sound documentation as to the reasoning for the changes. In my opinion, the new rule will LIKELY hold up in court. Even if it doesn’t, it is highly unlikely the EPA could get away with fining / citing people for not following a court-reinstated rule under such a cloud of confusion.

In any case, the new rule is easier to follow and makes more sense than the Obama EPA rule changes did. It reverts the majority of the RMP rule to match the PSM rule where they SHARE jurisdiction. The only substantive changes are to the EPA-specific areas where the EPA alone holds jurisdiction.

 

Ok, so how do I comply with this new rule?

If you do use our template system, I’ve got some good news for you! This is where using a set of open-sourced, professionally curated templates really shines. ALMOST ALL THE WORK has been done FOR YOU!

  • To improve your understanding of the new rule, read how we changed the program to meet the new requirements. This will help you to train your colleagues on them.
  • Replace existing copies of the affected Written Plans / Forms, taking a moment to look at the changes between the older versions and the new ones.
    1. Implement new EAP-C form.
    2. Modify the MI-EL1 EAP/ERP line to reflect the new text.
  • Train all Responsible Persons and affected management on the new policies.

Note: Estimated time for the above is about 2-4 hours depend on how well you know your PSM/RMP program.

 

On the other hand, If you don’t use our template system, you’re going to have to re-create the work I’ve already done:

  • Skip to the end of this article to get the links to the new information.
  • Read the 83-page Federal Register notice and make a series of notes about the new requirements. You can probably skip the 109 footnotes for now.
  • Compare those new requirements to the version of the RMP rule your program is CURRENLY written to comply with; whether that’s the pre-Obama, Obama, or Trump proposed version.
  • Starting at the beginning of your program, read through each of your Element Written Plans and see what changes have to be made. Refer to your notes from the first step. (You may wish to read how we changed our program to meet the new requirements)
  • Update / alter your program to meet these new requirements.
  • Train on these new changes

Note: Estimated time for the above is about 40-80 hours depend on how well you know your PSM/RMP program and the EPA RMP rule.

 

Template Program changes in detail

Please note, where not specifically shown below all affected Element Written Plans had their CFR section updated to the current 12/19/19 CFR.

Element What Changed Changes to Program Templates
01 – RMP
  1. A few definitions were deleted
  2. Some compliance dates and RMP references were changed
  3. Various Program 2 Changes
  4. Public meetings changes
  5. RMP Filing changes regarding 3rd party compliance audits, public meetings, etc.
  6. Removed significant amounts of publicly available information
  1. As our definition file isn’t limited to EPA sources, no changes were made to the template program documents.
  2. Previously there were sections about the Obama-era law that had a 2021 date tag – these sections were either deleted (because they were removed) or the date tag was removed.
  3. The element written plans are designed around Program 3, so no changes were made in them however all relevant CFR sections were updated.
  4. Updated the Element Written Plan to address these issues
  5. Updated the CFR to reflect the changes.
  6. Updated the Element Written Plan to address these issues
02 – EP N/A None
03 – PSI
  1. Removed the explicit requirement to keep PSI up to date.
  1. While we updated the CFR text, this is sort of implicit in the MOC/PSSR program and the very nature of PSM, so no changes made to the Element Written Plan.
04 – PHA
  1. Removed a nebulous requirement to look for “any other potential failure scenarios”
  2. Removed a section on alternative risk management for chemical / petro plants.
  1. While we updated the CFR text, this is sort of implicit in the idea of a PHA, so no changes were made in the Element Written Plan.
  2. These changes did not cover the NH3 refrigeration industry, so no changes were needed in the Element Written Plan.
  3. Since the explicit PSI “up to date” requirement was removed from the PSI section, it was removed from the PSI checklist in the PHA What-If checklists.
05 – SOP N/A None
06 – OT
  1. Removed an explicit requirement that “supervisors with process operational responsibilities” were covered under this program.
  1. We believe that operators under this element are defined by their function not their title / job position, so no changes were needed in the Element Written Plan.
07 – CQ N/A None
08 – MI No changes to RMP requirements
  1. The MI-EL1 section covering recurring PSM tasks in EAP/ERP was updated to remove the 2021 date codes. While the 10yr Field Exercise frequency is now just a suggestion (rather than a mandate) we’ve kept it in as a good practice.
09 – HW N/A None
10 – MOC / PSSR No changes to RMP requirements
  1. The procedural section “Implementation Policy: Managing Equipment / Facility Changes and using form MOC-1” includes a chart on possible changes to RMP-required information based on an MOC. The reference to “public information” has been removed from this chart.
11 – II
  1. Removed explicit requirements for incident location, time, all relevant facts, chronological order, amount released, number of injuries, etc.
  2. Removed a requirement that Incident Investigations be completed within a year
  1. While we removed these requirements from the CFR section, we believe they are still important for Incident Investigations and they’re already required by relevant RAGAGEP, so no changes were made to the Element Written Plan, the investigation instructions, or the Form-IIR Incident Investigation form.
  2. While we can’t imagine this wouldn’t occur naturally in a functioning process safety program, we removed the requirement. The program – as written – already suggests interim reports when investigations are lagging.
12 – EPR
  1. Lots of changes here: Modified information sharing requirements with responders, modified frequency of field exercises, modified scope of field and tabletop exercises, documentation requirements, compliance dates, etc.
  1. These changes were all incorporated in the Element Written Plan.
  2. To improve program performance, a new form was created “EAP-C Local Authority Coordination Record.” This form was also included in the Element Written Plan.
13 – CA
  1. Removed requirements for 3rd party audits
  1. These changes were all incorporated in the Element Written Plan.
14 – TS
  1. Modified text in the “CBI” section to reflect new wording in the updated rule.
  1. While it’s been changed in the CFR text, it requires no change to the Element Written Plans.

Item-by-Item changes:

  • Reference\EPA Reference\ has been updated with a PDF of the Register Notice.
  • Reference\CFR – Text of Federal Rules\ has been updated with a complete and formatted CFR reflecting the new changes.
  • The various element affected template directories have been updated with Element Written Plans that incorporate the new CFR text AND modified policies to comply with the rule changes
    • 01 – EPA RMP
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
    • 03 – Process Safety Information
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
    • 04 – Process Hazard Analysis
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
      • PHA Worksheet Template – REPLACE
    • 06 – Operator Training
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
    • 08 – Mechanical Integrity
      • MI-EL1 Form updated. You may just wish to modify the EAP/ERP line to reflect the new text rather than re-create the form.
    • 10 – Management of Change and PSSR
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
    • 11 – Incident Investigation
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
    • 12 – Emergency Planning and Response
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
      • NEW Form EAP-C – Implement
    • 13 – Compliance Audits
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE
      • Optional Combined PSM RMP Compliance Self-Audit Checklist – REPLACE
    • 14 – Trade Secrets
      • Element Written Plan – REPLACE

 

EPA links for new information:

  • Updated CFR (aka “law”) from eCFR: link (37 Pages)
  • Federal Register Notice including reasoning for changes: link (83 Pages)

New Year, “New” SOP Format

The spirit of Christmas may be behind us, but the spirit of Continuous Improvement never leaves us alone. (for better or worse, lol)

After months of minor changes and revisions off-line, the 2020 SOP templates have been released. Please note: These are IMPROVEMENTS, not compliance or safety-critical changes. As such, there is no need to go back and change your existing SOPs. We would, however, suggest you use these new formats as you implement new SOPs. Of course, it’s possible, you may want to take advantage of some of the features of these new SOP templates, and you’re welcome to convert to them if you have the time.

Changes to ALL SOP Templates:

  1. Moved “Covered Equipment” to “Objective” section which eliminates Document Info section.
  2. Moved “Related Documents” to “Objective” which eliminates Related Documents section.
  3. Removed “SOP Objective” from first section as the objective is repetitive and explained clearly in the Written Plan. (It’s the first text box of the SOP so it’s fairly obvious what the function is!)
  4. Made Safety Warning triangle smaller and made the warning RED. This change (among others) frees up a bit of room for the Safety, Health, Environmental and Equipment Considerations section
  5. Moved the Operator Requirements concerning authorization to the top of the Safety, Health, Environmental and Equipment Considerations section thus eliminating the Operator Requirements section. Also provided a callout to the operator to check their OT1 to ensure they’re qualified to perform the procedure.
  6. Modified the Operating Phase flowchart section layout to take up less space.
  7. Minimized the left-hand column which shows what “Section” you are in to 1” width to take up minimal space. Centered the section text.
  8. Placed Headings between sections. This required splitting up the various Operating Phase / Procedural sections but makes navigation much easier if being used in WORD or PDF format.
  9. Added complementary color to enlarged text “body” sections of Operating Phase / Procedural Sections.
  10. Valve / Component List given a header. Sub-header appropriately colored.

Why did we make those format changes?

  1. Those changes yield a slightly shorter SOP format (average 1 page loss per SOP)
  2. These are collections of various suggestions we’ve received over the past year from end-users.
  3. The resulting SOPs are much more visually appealing, especially on tablets.
  4. The resulting SOPs are much easier to navigate on tablets, which alot of users are implementing for their technicians.

 

Additional changes were made to some other SOP templates:

  1. HPRTSR: Updated the System Charging procedural section based on user feedback.
  2. HPR: Added a Cylinder Charging procedural section for those users that want that option.
  3. LEO: Traditional Permit LEO was simplified and now only has “Existing SOP,” “With Drain Valve,” and “Without Drain Valve” sections. The previous 4 possibilities was confusing to some and this one seems to be easier to understand.
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