1800 East Oakton Street
September 4, 2003
Marianne Lamont Horinko
Carolyn W. Merritt
RE: Regulatory Approach to Reactive Chemicals
Dear Assistant Secretary Henshaw,
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) commends the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) for the agencies' cooperative leadership in moving forward the issue of reactive chemicals at the June 10 meeting held jointly by the agencies. How to manage the threat of reactive chemicals through the regulatory process is a difficult issue but one that ASSE hopes can be dealt with as quickly as possible.
As was discussed at the meeting, a key issue is how to proceed. The CSB has recommended to OSHA and EPA that reactive chemicals be regulated, which ASSE supports, but that such regulation be done within OSHA's Standard on Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) (29 CFR 1910.119) and EPA's Risk Management Plan Rule (RMP). ASSE urges that this approach not be taken.
OSHA's PSM and EPA's RMP are two of the most successful programs the federal government has ever undertaken to advance the safety and health of both workers and the public at large. While reactive chemicals do fall under the broad umbrella of process safety management, which these programs utilize, ASSE does not believe that they are appropriate vehicles for the regulation of reactive chemicals.
The PSM was developed at a time when no regulation of hazardous chemical processes existed. Coverage was established by setting a threshold quantity for a list of widely used hazardous chemicals. EPA's RMP program is similarly based. Reactive chemicals do not consistently or universally fit the model for flammables and toxics that is recognized by and effectively drives the PSM and RMP standards. Reactive chemicals need a different methodology for covering their complex relationships and processes; therefore, simply expanding the threshold approaches used for PSM or RMP may well cause more confusion than clarification. Attempting to force them to "fit" under the PSM or RMP may not only fail to address threats from reactive chemicals, the regulatory viability of these two successful programs may be compromised by trying to do so.
Therefore, ASSE recommends that OSHA and EPA explore a new, separate regulation that would address processes and not simply chemicals. Our member safety, health and environmental professionals report a need for such an advance in OSHA's regulatory tools. They also report a similar need to confront combustible dusts. Based on their experience and expertise, ASSE believes that such separate regulations will be more likely to achieve the objective of increasing the safety and health of both workers and the public.
James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP
to go back to the ASSE Federal Statements and Testimony page.