January 18, 2024

Washington State Updates Process Safety Management Rules

Recent updates to Washington state’s process safety management rules focus on petroleum refineries and are intended to increase safety for workers in those facilities. The updated rules were filed by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) last month and will take effect on Dec. 27, 2024. L&I’s rulemaking order (PDF) adds a new Part B pertaining to petroleum refineries to the existing Washington Administrative Code (WAC) chapter on safety standards for process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals. The rulemaking explains that the new requirements are “based on the best available evidence learned since the [process safety management] rule was first adopted in 1992.” L&I describes the rulemaking as “one of the most protective in the country for refinery workers.”

Under the updated rules, employers will be required to regularly review processes that are likely to damage or wear down equipment and to conduct root cause analyses after significant accidents, L&I’s news release explains. The rules also call for employers to frequently analyze hazards, controls, mechanical factors, and process changes and to update safety programs accordingly, as well as to address workplace safety culture to prioritize safety rather than production.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board issued a statement on Jan. 5 in support of the new rules, which it says implement many of the measures recommended by CSB following its investigation into the explosion and fire that killed seven workers at the Tesoro Anacortes Refinery in Washington in 2010. CSB notes that Washington’s new regulation is modeled after California’s 2019 petroleum refinery process safety rule. Washington’s new refinery safety regulation “will provide greater protections for workers at petroleum refineries across the state,” the agency says.

Further details about Washington’s new rule can be found in L&I’s news release and on the department's website.

Related: An article published in the October 2021 issue of The Synergist examines federal OSHA's process safety management standard, which establishes a roadmap for occupational and environmental health and safety professionals to ensure the safety of workers and communities.