OSHA Defines 'On Site in One Location' for Process Safety Management

OSHA has issued its official interpretation and explanation of the phrase "on site in one location" in the "Application" section of the agency's Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard.

OSHA interprets "on site in one location" to mean that the standard applies when a threshold quantity of a highly hazardous chemical (HHC) exists within an area under the control of an employer or group of affiliated employers. It also applies to any group of vessels that are interconnected, or in separate vessels that are close enough in proximity that the HHC could be involved in a potential catastrophic release.

The meaning of "on site in one location" was at issue in a recent case before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) in Secretary of Labor vs. Motiva Enterprises, LLC. (No. 02-2160, 2006). In that decision, the review commission queried whether that language was meant to limit in some way the applicability of the standard to a highly hazardous-chemical process. In the absence of an authoritative interpretation, the review commission decided it could not determine that the cited activities were "on site" and "in one location," and it vacated the citations. Recognizing that OSHA is the policymaking actor under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the review commission left it to the agency to decide "in the first instance … the meaning of these terms and offer an 'authoritative interpretation.'" OSHRC also stated that any "such subsequent interpretation" would be reviewed in a future case "under 'standard deference principles.'"

The interpretation was published in the June 7 Federal Register, which can be accessed at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=19633.

The review commission's decision can be found at http://www.oshrc.gov/decisions/html_2006/02-2160.html.

For more information on process safety management, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/processsafetymanagement/index.html.

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