CSB Urges EPA to Strengthen Requirements Regarding Inherently Safer Technology, Hierarchy of Controls

Published June 15, 2016

​In comments responding to proposed changes to EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) encouraged the environmental agency to adopt “more robust requirements” regarding the use of inherently safer systems analysis and the hierarchy of controls. The proposed rule, “Accidental Release Prevention Requirements: Risk Management Programs Under the Clean Air Act, Section 112(r)(7),” is intended to improve chemical process safety at RMP facilities and modernize the agency’s chemical safety and security regulations, guidance, and policies. While EPA’s proposed revisions would require the assessment of inherently safer technologies (IST) and designs during process hazard assessment (PHA), CSB’s comments raise concerns about some of the proposed regulatory language, which the chemical safety agency characterized as “permissive” and “too narrow in scope.”

For example, EPA’s current proposed language would require owners and operators to “consider” IST or design only during the PHA process. According to CSB, this language could allow companies that perform a poor analysis to satisfy EPA’s requirement. CSB further notes that EPA’s proposed regulatory language would limit application of potential safer technology and alternatives to the PHA process.

“The application of IST and the hierarchy of controls is a key opportunity for preventing major chemical incidents, and thus should apply to other key safety management elements as well,” according to CSB.

EPA’s proposed revisions are also intended to enhance emergency planning and preparedness requirements; increase the availability of chemical information to help the public understand the risks at RMP facilities; and require third-party audits and root-cause analysis to identify process safety improvements for accident prevention.

“Although the proposed rule has several laudable provisions, the CSB encourages the EPA to further emphasize the prevention of chemical incidents,” CSB’s comments read. “The CSB also encourages the EPA to ensure that compliance with RMP provisions are predominantly the responsibility of facilities, rather than under-resourced [local emergency planning committees].”

View the full comments in a PDF on CSB’s website.