Amendments to EPA's Risk Management Program for Chemical Facilities Aim to Improve Process Safety

Published January 11, 2017

​In late December, EPA finalized a rule amending its Risk Management Program (RMP) for chemical facilities. The new rule is intended to reduce the likelihood of accidental releases at chemical facilities and improve emergency response when releases occur. According to EPA, the amendments are intended to prevent catastrophic accidents by improving accident prevention program requirements; improve emergency preparedness to ensure coordination between facilities and local communities; improve information access to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities; and improve third-party audits at RMP facilities.

“This rule will help prevent chemical accidents such as the explosion in West, Texas, in 2013, and their devastating effects,” EPA’s press release reads. “While numerous chemical plans are operated safely, in the last 10 years more than 1,500 accidents were reported by RMP facilities. These accidents are responsible for causing nearly 60 deaths; some 17,000 people being injured or seeking medical treatment; almost 500,000 people being evacuated or sheltered-in-place; and more than $2 billion in property damages.”

EPA’s amendments are an “action item” under an executive order issued in August 2013 to improve chemical facility safety and security, and specifically affect the agency’s Accidental Release Prevention requirements of RMP under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act.

In July 2014, EPA issued a request for information (RFI) seeking data and information on specific regulatory elements and process safety management approaches to improve public health and safety and to aid police, fire, and emergency response personnel in preparing for and responding to chemical emergencies. In November 2015, the agency held a Small Business Advocacy Review panel on modernizing the RMP rule. EPA issued its proposed rule outlining changes to its RMP regulations in March 2016; the proposed revisions were intended to improve chemical process safety at RMP facilities and modernize the agency’s chemical safety and security regulations, guidance, and policies.

A summary of EPA’s new rule, its history, and additional resources are available on the agency’s website.

Related: A feature article published in the June/July 2016 Synergist discusses how EPA’s new RMP regulations will provide opportunities for industrial hygienists to participate in process safety.