10th Circuit Ruling on Expanding PSM Coverage

10th Circuit Ruling on Expanding PSM Coverage


On October 27, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals 10th circuit handed down a decision on interconnectivity of equipment as it pertains to OSHA Process Safety Management Standard 1910.119 in a case Eugene Scalia, Secretary Of Labor vs. Wynnewood Refining Co., LLC and Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

Court Decision (read it here) ruled that a boiler was part of the covered process, although it did not contain any highly hazardous chemicals, because it was connected to the process. An indirect physical link between the boiler and the covered units was deemed sufficient for PSM coverage.

The Determination was made based on the definition of “covered process” comprising of two sentences:

“Process means any activity involving a highly hazardous chemical including any use, storage, manufacturing, handling, or the on-site movement of such chemicals, or combination of these activities. For purpose of this definition, any group of vessels that are interconnected and separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process.”

The court decision focused on the second sentence of this definition ruling that the modifier “such that a highly hazardous chemical could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process” does not apply to “any group of vessels that are interconnected” but only to “separate vessels which are located”.

What Does This Mean to the Industry?

Far-reaching – as it rules that any equipment interconnected to a covered process is automatically part of the covered process and DOES NOT have to contain highly hazardous chemicals. If it’s connected – it’s covered.

This can expand the PSM coverage in facilities to include not only connected utilities such as boilers providing steam, cooling towers, nitrogen generation units to the process, etc. but also downstream or upstream operations. Such as, interconnected vessels or manufacturer skids, which were previously not considered to be PSM covered with no potential release of a highly hazardous chemical.

What Does This Mean to You?

Process Hazard Analysis studies at your facility may have to be expanded. Mechanical / Asset Integrity programs may require the inclusion of additional assets and various types of Process Safety Information, such as relief and flare systems design documentation, or facility siting studies, may need to be updated to meet Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP).

How We Can Help

As ISO certified process safety experts, we can assist you with all areas of Process Safety Management (PSM) implementation, interpretation, and compliance. We can help you understand if this ruling affects your facility, and how you are affected. We can then develop a compliance plan to assist you in addressing the requirements of this ruling and to successfully demonstrate your compliance with the OSHA PSM Standard. Contact us today