EPA: Proposed changes to rule on Risk Management Program will boost process safety

Washington – The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing changes to its Risk Management Program rule, claiming the new requirements would improve chemical process safety and keep first responders safer.

Announced Feb. 25, the changes come after two years of outreach to communities, first responders, local governments and industry stakeholders.

The RMP rule would require:

  • Employers to use safer technologies and alternatives in process hazard assessment
  • Third-party audits and root-cause analysis to identify areas where safety improvements can be made at facilities
  • Coordination between facilities and local emergency response agencies in emergency planning and preparedness
  • Certain facilities to conduct emergency response exercises with local responders

“This proposal is a step in the right direction,” Mathy Stanislaus, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Land and Emergency Management, wrote in a blog post. “We want to build on the success of leaders in the chemical industry by enhancing their operations to prevent accidents, and we want to make sure that communities are fully prepared for a chemical plant accident, so that first responders, workers, and neighboring community members are protected.”

The proposed changes were prompted by an Executive Order that directs government agencies to improve chemical facility safety. The order was issued in the wake of the 2013 fertilizer facility explosion in West, TX, that killed 15 people, including several first responders.

At press time, the proposed rule had not yet been published in the Federal Register. Once the proposal is published, stakeholders will have 60 days to submit formal comments. Additionally, EPA has scheduled a public hearing on the rule in Washington on March 29.

-Safety + Health; National Safety Council