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ASSE Comments on CSB Call to Update OSHA Chem Standards, Vote on Most Wanted Chem Standard

Posted in on Mon, Aug 12, 2013

On July 25, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) held a meeting to reiterate its concern over several recommendations to OSHA the Board has made over the years to encourage OSHA to amend and adopt certain standards related to chemical safety but have not been addressed.  The Board also voted on “Most Wanted Chemical Standard,” which it determined was combustible dust.  Information on the CSB meeting can be found at  ASSE provided the following comment for the meeting:

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Safety and health professionals appreciate CSB effort to bring attention to need for advance protections from the risks posed by chemicals in workplaces

 This statement is attributable to:              Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, EurOSHM

                                                                           ASSE President

“The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) appreciates the leadership demonstrated by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in holding a public meeting July 25, 2013, to bring attention to the need for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to advance standards that can help ensure all employers take responsibility for managing the risks of explosions in the workplace.  This meeting not only is an opportunity for the occupational safety and health community to come together and discuss needed changes in standards.  It also should help remind us of our shared responsibility to provide employers, workers, safety and health professionals, and emergency responders with the necessary tools for helping manage the risk of workplace explosions, whether or not OSHA is able to advance these standards.

“Realistically, any call to advance OSHA standards must take into account that the key obstacle to improving those standards is not necessarily OSHA.  Our nation’s process for adopting or even improving workplace safety and health standards is broken and in dire need of a significant overhaul.  As a community, we must join in finding a way to give OSHA the ability to move effective standards forward in a reasonable way.

“ASSE has included several suggestions to improve OSHA’s standard development abilities in our Draft Occupational Safety and Health Reform Bill. Encouraging cooperative rulemaking, ensuring OSHA relies on consensus guidelines when promulgating new rules, freeing OSHA to update referenced voluntary consensus standards are just a few ways the process can be fixed. ASSE is open to other ideas and hopes this public meeting will be a catalyst for discussion on how best to support a more functional OSHA standards-setting process.

“ASSE also appreciates CSB’s plan to use this meeting to identify a ‘Most Wanted Safety Improvement.’  While ASSE considers an appropriate combustible dust standard vitally important, the safety improvement we believe can have the widest positive impact on the overall management of workplace safety and health risks is a truly risk-based OSHA injury and illness prevention program (I2P2) standard.  An effectively written I2P2 standard has the potential of changing the very foundation of our nation’s approach to regulating workplace safety and health by moving employer focus from simply meeting prescriptive standards to taking active responsibility for identifying risks in each workplace and then establishing a plan to address each risk.  An appropriate I2P2 standard would give every employer the opportunity to manage safety in the same way our safest, most successful employers and safety and health professionals achieve safe and healthy workplaces.  ASSE encourages CSB to consider the I2P2 standard as the “Most Wanted Safety Improvement.”

“ASSE thanks CSB for its leadership and hopes our comments can expand the discussion to efforts that, if achieved, can help meet CSB’s goal of more effective oversight of workplace safety and health from OSHA.”

And the following report on the meeting was prepared by the Law Offices of Adele Abrams, Esq.:

On July 25, 2013, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) held a public meeting during which the board voted to amend the status of several recommendations provided to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The board also voted to designate the creation of a comprehensive combustible dust standard as CSB’s “Most Wanted” chemical safety and health improvement. The board had several status options regarding the OSHA recommendations presented by CSB staff members; the options were “Open Acceptable Response,” “Open Unacceptable Response,” “Closed Acceptable Response,” and “Closed Unacceptable Response.”

Present at the meeting were board members, Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairperson, Dr.  Beth Rosenberg, and Mark Griffon, and also Richard Loeb, General Counsel, Additionally, CSB staff members presented their recommendations for the status updates. The presentations and questions regarding the status recommendations were conducted by Dr. Manuel Gomez, Director of Recommendations, Christina Morgan, Recommendation Specialist, Mark Kaszniak, Senior Recommendations Specialist, and Don Holmstrom, Director of the Western Regional Office.

Following presentations by the CSB staff members on each recommendation, as well as public comment (during which ASSE’s statement was placed in the record pursuant to the combustible dust discussion, along with stakeholder statements from the USWA, NFPA, UAW, and a few others), and a response from OSHA Director of Enforcement Programs Thomas Galassi the board members voted on the seven (7) status recommendations and the “Most Wanted” designation. All recommendation statuses were determined to be “Open Unacceptable Response” from OSHA by the board and a Combustible Dust standard by OSHA was voted to be the CSB’s “Most Wanted.”

Recommendation 2001-5-I-DE-R1: Atmospheric Storage Tanks

CSB made a recommendation to OSHA that 29 C.F.R. §1910.119 should be amended following the Motiva Delaware Refinery explosion in 2001. §1910.119 is OSHA’s Program Safety Management (PSM) standard for highly hazardous chemicals. At the Motiva incident a 100,000 gallon tank containing used sulfuric acid exploded after fumes were ignited by a welder repairing a catwalk near the tank. This explosion resulted in one fatality and significant spillage into the Delaware River. The tank was found to have holes in the room, which after the contents were heated throughout the day created fumes which escaped and were ignited causing the explosion and spill.

§1910.119 has language which exempted the storage tanks at the Motiva site from enforcement under the standard. CSB recommended the standard be amended to include storage tanks that were previously exempt from the jurisdiction of §1910.119. CSB reasoned that if the storage tanks at the Motiva site had been under §1910.119, OSHA would have required continued maintenance of tank integrity, applied consistent management change of procedures for the tanks, and controlled hot work near flammable materials.

CSB made their recommendations to OSHA in 2002, to which OSHA still has not changed the requested standard. Mr. Galassi, Director OSHA Enforcement Programs, outlined that OSHA had taken other actions such as a compliance directive. Additionally, Mr. Galassi stated that OSHA has begun the process of requesting information in order to review the PSM standard and determine what amendments should occur regarding the standard as a whole, not just the portion regarding atmospheric storage tanks.

Mark Kaszniak, Senior Recommendations Specialist, presented CSB’s position on the atmospheric storage tank status and recommended the board vote the status as “Open Unacceptable Response.” The board discussed the matter and although they acknowledged OSHA’s inaction on a new standard is not their fault alone, citing the difficulty in creating and passing new standards,  the OSHA response to CSB’s recommendation for change was unacceptable.

Recommendation 2205-5-I-TX-R9: Change of Management Amendment

The recommendation was made by CSB following the British Petroleum (BP) Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005. The safety relief valves failed on pipes which were being worked on and therefore could not be bled. The incident resulted in 15fatalities. CSB determined the root cause to be poor management. This included frequent corporate sales and mergers, leadership changes at the refinery, in addition to budget and training cuts.

CSB recommended to OSHA that they amend the Management of Change provisions of the PSM standard, §1910.119. CSB felt that if OSHA included organizational changes under the Change of Management provision the BP Texas City explosion could have been avoided.

After receiving the CSB recommendation, OSHA did not agree that an amendment was necessary. OSHA issued a guidance memorandum to regional administration reviewing policy and procedure under the Management of Change provision. CSB staff does not believe this satisfied their recommendation or adequately protected the industry from future, similar incidents. Mark Kaszniak, Senior Recommendations Specialist, recommended to the CSB board that they vote the status of the Management of Change recommendation to “Open Unacceptable Response” from OSHA. The  CSB board again voted in favor of the staff recommendation, labeling OSHA’s response as unacceptable.

Recommendation 2010-07-I-CT-HR1: Fuel Gas Safety Standard

Following several incidents based on the release and explosion of natural gas, Conagra in 2009 and Kleen Energy in 2010, CSB provided recommendations to OSHA that a Fuel Gas safety standard needed to be created. At Conagra, workers were bleeding a natural gas line while installing an industrial boiler which resulted in a buildup of a natural gas and subsequently an explosion. The Kleen Energy plant incident was the result of purging a natural gas line to remove all debris from the line before connecting it to a power turbine, while building a power plant. Both releases were planned during the course of maintenance or construction.

CSB stated that OSHA does not have a fuel gas standard at this time, and recommended the creation of such a standard to prohibit the release of gas into the atmosphere for cleaning a fuel line and to prohibit flammable purging of natural gas indoors. After the initial recommendation, OSHA reviewed the recommendation to create a new standard and determined it was not necessary at this time as there were existing standards that could cover fuel gas. OSHA cited the existence of building and fire codes as well as new and existing standards from the National Fire Protection Association and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers pressure piping standard as existing measures to guide industry. OSHA had worked with many of the organizations in the development of the standards and codes which are incorporated by reference. Additionally, OSHA issued a letter following the Kleen Energy incident to energy companies and turbine manufacturers regarding the dangers of purging natural gas lines. Finally, OSHA informed the CSB that any hazards existing without a specific standard can be and are still cited under the OSHA general duty clause.

CSB Recommendation Specialist Christine Morgan, and the CSB staff maintained their opinion that OSHA’s actions were not sufficient to alleviate the CSB concerns and close the recommendation. Ms. Morgan recommended to the CSB board that the status be changed to “Open Unacceptable Response.” After brief deliberation the board members expressed opinions that although some progress had been made the status would be changed to “Open Unacceptable.”

Recommendations 2006-1-HR1, 2008-5-I-GA-R11, 2011-4-I-TN-R1/R2: Combustible Dust Standard and Most Wanted Designation

The final recommendation presentation to the CSB board was in reference to multiple CSB recommendations to OHSA for a comprehensive combustible dust standard from OSHA. The presentation also led directly into the board voting on whether or not to designation a combustible dust standard as the CSB’s “Most Wanted” chemical safety health improvements. This is part of the CSB’s Most Wanted campaign that will likely grow to include other safety standards and recommendations labeled under the Most Wanted program. CSB believes the Most Wanted program and designations will effectively communicate and outline what they believe to be the most important issues facing chemical health and safety. This program has been employed by other independent government agencies, and CSB hopes to mirror such programs. The Most Wanted program was approved by CSB board Order 46.

Christine Morgan, Recommendations Specialist, presented the CSB staff recommendation for changing the status of existing recommendations to OSHA to “Open Unacceptable Response.” While Dr. Manuel Gomez, Director of Recommendations for CSB, presented to the board the staff recommendation, the desire for a combustible dust standard be labeled CSB’s “Most Wanted” chemical health and safety improvement.

Ms. Morgan outlined the recommendations based on three combustible dust incidents in 2003, the 2008 Imperial Sugar incident which resulted in 14 fatalities, as well as multiple explosions in 2011 at the Hoeganaes Corporation Plant in Tennessee which resulted in three fatalities.

In each incident CSB’s root cause analysis attributed the explosion to build up of combustible dust. According to CSB this build up would  result in a primary explosion or fire and then as the fire grew or explosion shook loose additional combustible dust a secondary and larger explosion and fire would occur. CSB recommended that OSHA create a combustible dust standard and cited CSB research that from 1980-2005 there were roughly 281 combustible dust incidents which led to 119 fatalities and 718 injuries. Furthermore, CSB recommended that OSHA create a standard as the existing regulation was not sufficient and existing voluntary consensus standards are not enforceable unless incorporated into fire or building codes.

CSB cited the passage of the 1987 Grain Handling standard by OSHA as a primary reason for significant reduction in agricultural dust hazards and incidents. CSB believes and hopes that an OSHA combustible dust standard will have a similar impact on combustible dust incidents.

OSHA assented that a standard was needed and they have implemented the process of creating a standard. In 2009 a comprehensive rulemaking process on combustible dust was initiated with an initial comment period ending in January 2010. Additionally, OSHA has held six (6) stakeholder meetings and employed a National Emphasis Program on combustible dust. This program is enforced under OSHA housekeeping and general duty clause standards. However, CSB does not believe that OSHA is pushing the rulemaking process fast enough and this is the basis for the CSB staff recommendation that the recommendations statuses be changed to “Open Unacceptable Response.”

Dr. Gomez echoed many of the same points presented by Ms. Morgan in his presentation for the designation of a combustible dust standard as CSB’s “Most Wanted” chemical health and safety improvement.  Moreover, Dr. Gomez added that there are existing engineering and administrative controls that can be implemented which will significantly reduce the risk of combustible dust ignition. He stated that combustible dust is present in nearly every industry and when in an enclosed area and small ignition source could lead to catastrophic results, and an OSHA standard on combustible dust would reduce such hazards.

Following the presentation and public comment period regarding a combustible dust standard, the board voted to change the status of OSHA response to the combustible dust recommendation as “Open Unacceptable Response.” Additionally, the board voted and approved the creation of a combustible dust standard as the CSB’s “Most Wanted” chemical health and safety improvement.


The U.S. Chemical Safety Board found that OSHA responses to seven (7) recommendations over the course of the last decade were unacceptable. Despite OSHA’s comments regarding the abatement efforts taken on behalf of the recommendation, or the continuing action begin taken, CSB was not persuaded that the recommendations where being responded to effectively. The result was the statuses of all seven (7) recommendations presented to the board at the meeting were changed to “Open Unacceptable Response.” In addition to the changed statuses, the board approved the designation of CSB’s first “Most Wanted” chemical safety and health improvement. Finally, board member Rosenberg moved that the board schedule another public hearing within the next four (4) months to continue the public interaction and discussion of additional elements to the “Most Wanted” program, but Chairman Moure-Eraso vetoed the request, saying that public meetings would be held in accordance with the “Most Wanted” program, board Order 46, and that voting at this time was unnecessary.

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