In its Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) requested a major change in its appropriation language to allow it to conduct more Process Safety Management (“PSM”) inspections of small businesses. Currently, OSHA’s appropriation language only allows the agency to conduct safety and health inspections of small businesses (those with 10 or fewer employees) in industry codes that have lower-than-average workplace injury and illness rates. The agency’s request expressed that “neither the number of workers in a company nor low injury and illness rates, however, is predictive of the potential for high-consequence catastrophic incidents, resulting in multiple casualties and extensive property damage that can damage whole communities.” The FY 2015 budget request can be found at http://www.dol.gov/dol/budget/.
Specifically, the FY 2015 budget requests changes in the appropriations language to allow the agency to conduct “targeted inspections of small establishments that may have potential for catastrophic incidents (e.g., those with Process Safety Management (PSM) or the EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) – covered processes).”
In support of this request, the agency used the explosion at the West Fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April 2013. West Fertilizer employed only nine workers, but the explosion killed 14 people and injured more than 150.
Taking up merely 3 paragraphs in the 135-page budget request, if approved, this change to the agency’s appropriations language could have far-reaching implications. Essentially expanding OSHA’s jurisdiction, the change would allow the agency to conduct targeted inspections of any business using processes that are subject to either OSHA’s PSM regulations or the EPA’s RMP regulations. The only exemption included in the request exempts farmers using PSM or RMP- covered processes.
The agency has recently made clear that it intends to enforce PSM regulations more than ever before, and this budget request may allow the agency to conduct inspections on a much wider scale than is currently allowed.
This article was authored by Amanda E. Ferguson, Jackson Kelly PLLC. For more information on the author, click here.