On June 2, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) convened the Small Business Advocacy Review Panel (“SBAR Panel”) in accordance with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.  The SBAR Panel was convened as a follow-up to Executive Order 13650 entitled “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security” (the “EO”).   The EO stated that OSHA needed to “identify issues related to modernization of the [Process Safety Management (“PSM”)] Standard and related standards necessary to meet the goal of preventing major chemical accidents.”

Employers have seen this push over the last year with OSHA’s proposal of appropriations language revisions to expand PSM audits and issuance of multiple Standard Interpretations focused on PSM issues, including RAGAGEP and the Retail Exemption.  The latter Standard Interpretation has since been made subject to “interim enforcement policies delaying active enforcement of the interpretation” until September 2016, possibly coinciding with the completion of the SBAR Panel.  It is nevertheless clear that OSHA is heavily focused on the PSM standard’s application, implementation, and modernization.

To that end, OSHA has instituted the SBAR Panel to cover a wide variety of PSM-related topics.  These include, but are not limited to, a clarification of the PSM exemption for atmospheric storage tanks, a clarification of the PSM standard’s application to oil and gas well drilling and servicing and oil and gas production facilities, an update to Appendix A (list of highly hazardous chemicals) of the PSM standard, an amendment to require evaluation of RAGAGEP updates, an addition of a RAGAGEP definition, an amendment to require root cause analysis as well as third-party compliance audits, and a solicitation of feedback for streamlining OSHA’s PSM standard with the Environment Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan rule.  A full list of topics is available here.

The SBAR Panel is ultimately a first step towards possible revisions or additions to the PSM regulation.  As part of that process, over the next week, OSHA is conducting teleconferences with Small Entity Representatives (“SERs”), which are comprised of small businesses, small governmental jurisdictions, and small non-profit entities.  OSHA states that these teleconferences allow SERs “to convey how the Agency’s draft conceptual framework may impact small businesses and other small entities, and suggest ways to minimize those impacts while meeting OSHA’s statutory goals.”  While any member of the public may listen to the teleconferences, only SERs and SBAR Panel members may participate.  A schedule for the various teleconferences is available here.

The SBAR Panel is scheduled to be completed by August 1, 2016.  We will monitor the process for important information and updates.  During the interim, we are providing tips on the Work Knowledge Blog for the effective management of OSHA inspections, with a focus on existing PSM standard obligations.