Federal agencies Wholesale and retail trade

OSHA delays enforcement of new PSM policy; lawmakers call for formal rulemaking

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Photo: DHuss/iStockphoto

Washington – OSHA will delay enforcing a new interpretation of its Process Safety Management Standard, prompting a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call for the agency to withdraw that interpretation.

In a July 22 memorandum, OSHA announced it had revised the interpretation that exempted retail facilities from PSM requirements. The exemption originally was intended only for retail establishments that sold hazardous chemicals in small quantities, such as gas stations, but the agency had been applying the exemption to establishments that made more than 50 percent of their income from direct sales of those chemicals to end users.

The new interpretation states that only facilities with North American Industry Classification System codes of 44 and 45 will be exempt. Although OSHA believes most affected facilities currently are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Program, it may take some time to come into compliance with the PSM standard.

As such, OSHA announced on Oct. 20 that it will focus efforts on compliance assistance and in most cases will not cite newly non-exempted facilities for failing to comply with the PSM rule. This policy will last through July 22, 2016.

In response to the interim enforcement policy, 38 congressmen on Oct. 22 sent a letter to Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez asking OSHA to rescind the memo and begin a formal rulemaking process. The representatives claim that the interpretation is arbitrary and will impose a great cost on small and medium-sized businesses.