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OSHA Expert Outlines Oilpatch Issues

The OSHA region that includes Texas accounted for the lion's share of inspections during 2012-2015, and most of those were unprogrammed -- triggered by complaints or by incidents, Mike Marshall reported June 9.

Oil and gas safety professionals learned more June 9, during ASSE's Safety 2015 in Dallas, about how OSHA has been providing compliance assistance and has been conducting enforcement in the upstream sector as OSHA's Mike Marshall, PE, coordinator of the agency's Upstream Oil and Gas Working Group in the Directorate of Enforcement Programs, discussed issues in the industry and how the agency's request for information about updating its Process Safety Management (PSM) standard may proceed. The upstream industry's challenges are now considered "high hazard" by the agency, he said.

Marshall's presentation laid out how the upstream industry stacks up against other industries: The percentage of unprogrammed inspections during 2012-2015 is higher than others (this category of inspections is triggered by complaints or incidents), and 21 percent of those related to fatalities or catastrophes, Marshall said. Of the 2,013 violations found during OSHA's 1,807 inspections in the sector during that period, 68.8 percent were classified as serious, and the agency issued $7,499,999 in penalties. The average number of violations per inspection were in line with other industries, but the average penalty per violation was significantly higher, he added.

Marshall said the oil and gas industry has now embraced the agency's requirement that workers wear flame-resistant apparel, although initially the industry objected, and OSHA's alliance with the National STEPS Network and its annual Texas oil and gas safety conference in cooperation with the University of Texas at Arlington are both working very well, and so are other alliances, he said.

His final remarks concerned OSHA's potential update of its PSM standard. OSHA's small business panel review, a required step in federal rulemaking, began June 8, he said. Oil and gas drilling and servicing were exempted by OSHA when it promulgated the PSM standard in 1992, because the agency planned to adopt an existing standard covering that industry, but that action by OSHA never happened, Marshall said. And the number of General Duty Clause violations the agency now issues to companies in the industry tells him that a specific OSHA standard for the industry is needed, he said.

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