OSHA Course Book 3430: Advanced Process Safety Management
GCAP is always looking to improve our PSM training program and consultation services. One of the tools we use is to request information from OSHA and the EPA under the Federal “Freedom of Information Act” which is often referred to as a FOIA request. In 2012 (at great expense) we used this tool to get the citation information for all PSM citations from 2008-2011. In 2013 we filed additional FOIA’s to get all 2012 citations. We don’t just get the citations themselves, but the documents behind them that show the reasoning behind the citations including pictures, the inspector’s inspection narrative, etc. Obviously, we learned a lot about how OSHA and the EPA interpret the PSM/RMP standards from these FOIA’s and we’ve used that information in our custom textbook for our PSM class as well as source/working material for our NEP class.
Earlier this year, due to a FOIA we read an inspector quote from OSHA course book “3430 – Advanced Process Safety Management in the Chemical Industries.” We’ve long known of this course, but it’s only available from the OSHA Training Institute and only allows OSHA inspectors to attend the class. The quoted line that drew our attention was this: “The loss of Ml due to external corrosion is the single biggest concern in industrial ammonia refrigeration components.”
We wondered – if OSHA is saying this in the course, what else are they saying? What was their source for this information? We again requested to be able to attend the course at our own cost and were turned down. GCAP recalled a court ruling that was referenced in the MEER decision (http://www.oshrc.gov/decisions/html_1997/95-0341.html) from the 1990’s from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Diamond Roofing v. OSHRC, 528 F.2d 645, 649 (5th Cir. 1976):
“An employer, however, is entitled to fair notice in dealing with his government. Like other statutes and regulations which allow monetary penalties against those who violate them, an occupational safety and health standard must give an employer fair warning of the conduct it prohibits or requires, and it must provide a reasonably clear standard of culpability to circumscribe the discretion of the enforcing authority and its agents….
If a violation of a regulation subjects private parties to criminal or civil sanctions, a regulation cannot be construed to mean what an agency intended but did not adequately express.”
We didn’t think that an OSHA course on how they interpret the standard could be refused under FOIA so we requested the coursebook from the course under the Freedom of Information Act. Jeremy Williams, Managing Director of GCAP stated: “They can’t rig the game like this – if we’re being held to certain standards, we should know what they are. Sure, this is a legal issue, but at the end of the day it’s about Process Safety – Safety being the key word here.”
Eventually OSHA approved our FOIA request and we received three books totaling about 500 pages.
Unfortunately, they had redacted quite a bit of the information we were actually interested in. One example is the Ammonia Refrigeration Processes and Equipment presentation which was of particular interest.
Slides that were redacted include titles like:
- Does PSM Apply?
- What About NH3 Refrigeration Processes < 10,000lbs?
- What are Signs of a Poor NH3 Refrigeration PSM Program?
- What Design Codes and Standards Could be Expected in PSI?
- Inspection RAGAGEP?
You can understand why we would want access to that information. OSHA had redacted it under provision 7(e) of the Freedom of Information Act. Provision 7(e) protects records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes the release of which could reasonably be expected to disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. Essentially, they are arguing that if we knew what they were looking for we would be able to avoid citations.
Look, we at GCAP don’t necessarily disagree in that argument, but this same argument could be made to block any information requested about any citation at all! If they are looking for things because those things indicate a safety issue, then solving those things would alleviate the safety issue. Isn’t that what they are in business for? We don’t think citations should be the primary business that OSHA is in!
We’d rather have the problem solved by the PSM practitioner and refrigeration technicians to ensure the safety of the community and the employee BEFORE the odd OSHA inspection or chemical release. OSHA’s position seems to be that the information on these slides shows inspectors where there are gaps in a program but that information should only be known to the inspectors – not the people actually endangered by the process or the people in charge of ensuring its safety.
Is OSHA more interested in citations than employee safety? It certainly shouldn’t be – according to their own website (https://www.osha.gov/about.html) the reason that congress created OSHA was “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
Is hiding information that would show those operating a chemical process where there might be flaws in that process really how they intend to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women”? We at GCAP don’t think that’s right and we intend to appeal these redactions.
Look for an upcoming podcast where we discuss what we learned from the information they did provide including the answer to the original question: What was the source of that quote in the original citation?