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What You Need to Know About California's PSM Regulation for Refinery Safety

ABS Group Safety, Risk and Compliance Services

PSM for Refinery Safety

What are the key takeaways in the proposed new requirements for improving refinery safety in California? We discuss 19 changes you need to know that will affect process safety management (PSM).

In 2012, California Governor Brown formed an Interagency Group consisting of various governmental agencies, including the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA), to examine ways to improve public and worker safety at refineries.

The objective of the group was to identify specific means of improving process safety within refinery operations as well as agency performance. In February 2014, the California Interagency Working Group on Refining Safety published its report, which identified regulatory gaps, areas of overlap and areas in need of improved coordination. The task force's findings focused on four (4) key areas: 1) oversight and coordination, 2) emergency response and preparedness, 3) safety and prevention of hazardous events and 4) improved communication and interaction with the public and our surrounding environment.

Proposed New Safety and Prevention Requirements

As part of addressing these key areas, California regulators drafted proposed new requirements aimed at improving process safety management (PSM) for petroleum refineries. The State's General Industrial Safety Order 5189.1 was issued in July 2016 (PSM Regulation). According to its updated scope and purpose, the requirements set forth by the State of California intend "to reduce risks by preventing major accidents and eliminating or minimizing process safety hazards to which employees may be exposed."

Within the 22 elements comprising the revised PSM regulation, refiners must account for and comply with the following proposed new topics:

  • Safeguard Protection Analysis (SPA)
  • Damage Mechanism Review (DMR) (formerly an element of Mechanical Integrity)
  • Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis (HCA)
  • Process Safety Culture Assessment (PSCA)
  • Human Factors and Assessments
  • Management of Organizational Change (MOOC)
  • PSM Program and Safety Indicators
  • Division Access to Documents and Information
  • Implementation

In addition to these new PSM elements, the regulation provides a definition of damage mechanism, human factors, independent protection layers, inherent safety, process safety culture, process safety performance indicators, and recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices (RAGAGEP) to assist the refiners with understanding and meeting compliance requirements.

PSM Regulation Key Takeaways

In a recent webinar, ABS Group identified the regulatory changes that will affect future PSM in California's refineries, with an explanation about new compliance requirements included in the revised PSM Regulation as well as shared experiences from the field (listen to the archived audio for more information). Here are 19 key takeaways you need to know to prepare for the new requirements.

1. Process Safety Information

Results of the DMRs, as well as other mechanical integrity reviews currently required, should be explicitly incorporated in the information provided to process hazard analysis (PHA) teams at refineries and agencies overseeing refinery safety.

Refiners must develop and maintain written process safety information (PSI) before conducting an analysis such as a PHA, HCA, SPA or DMA.

PSI requires documentation of additional information that includes process equipment used in the process, results of previous DMRs and documentation that process equipment complies with RAGAGEP or equivalent internal standards for safe operation. Note, if as-build codes, standards or practices are no longer in use, the refiner must document that the process equipment has been designed, installed, inspected, tested and maintained in a safe manner for its intended purposes.

2. Process Hazard Analysis

The proposed regulation has increased the scope of PHA by adding the requirements of performing an SPA, addressing DMRs during the PHA and requiring an HCA for PHA recommendations. If performing the initial PHA on a unit, the refiner has three (3) years to comply. If it is an existing process unit that has been subject to a PHA, this requirement must be met within five (5) years.

A written SPA is required for each potential major incident identified in the PHA. The SPA may use a quantitative or semi-quantitative process, such as layer of protection analysis, and requires an individual with expertise in the specific SPA methodology involved in the PHA.

3. Operating Procedures

An update to the existing PSM Regulation, the operating procedures element now requires refiners to have written procedures in place for a variety of startup and shutdown operating conditions, including emergency shutdowns, normal shutdowns and startups following a turnaround, and planned and unplanned shutdowns. Emergency procedures are required to address the response to the over-pressurizing or overheating of equipment or piping and the response to releases or discharges of highly hazardous chemicals. Futhermore, only qualified operations personnel may initiate emergency operations.

4. Training

The key change for this topic – improving training effectiveness – is a requirement to develop and implement an effective written training program that addresses employee qualification requirements, employee testing procedures and employee understanding of new and updated PSM topics. The employer shall provide for employee participation in developing and implementing this program.

Refiners using contractors will also be more accountable for the effectiveness of contractor training. Refiners are required to have written procedures addressing contractor safe entry, presence and exit of process areas. Contractors must also document their employee training. In addition, contractors have a responsibility to inform their employers of any specific hazards presented by contractor's work, as well as hazards identified by the contractor while performing work at the refinery.

5. Pre Start-Up Safety Review

A pre start-up safety review (PSSR) must be conducted for all turnaround work. Prior to the introduction of highly hazardous materials, the PSSR must confirm that the construction, maintenance and repair work has been performed in accordance with design specifications. Additionally, the PSSR must confirm that a PHA, HCA, DMR and SPA was performed for new processes and that recommendations resulting from these analyses have been addressed.

6. Mechanical Integrity

Changes to the mechanical integrity (MI) topic address the need to incorporate applicable industry best practices to a refiner's MI program. This includes developing written procedures for the safe conduct of maintenance activities consistent with process safety information, verifying that inspection and testing meet RAGAGEP, confirming that equipment deficiencies have been corrected for the safe operation of process equipment in accordance with RAGAGEP or equivalent internal safety operational standards, and verifying quality assurance for the process equipment.

Refiners should establish a process for evaluating new or updated codes and standards that apply to covered process equipment and implement changes as appropriate.

7. Damage Mechanism Review

While typically done by many refiners, a DMR is now required for all covered processes (existing or new) or the refinery must document the rationale for not having a DMR. The DMR is also required as part of a major change. If a damage mechanism is a contributing factor to an incident investigation, the applicable DMR documentation needs to be reviewed as part of the investigation. If it does not exist at the time of the incident, a DMR needs to be completed as part of the incident investigation. DMRs must be revalidated every five (5) years. While the regulation does not specify an approach for performing a DMR, API RP 570 provides guidance on this topic.

8. Hierarchy of Hazard Control Analysis

The new PSM Regulation includes a new requirement for HCA, which was added to make sure that refiners incorporate the highest degree of hazard reduction, to the maximum extent feasible, in order to avoid major accidents or releases. An HCA is performed and documented for each process covered by the PSM Regulation. The HCAs must be completed within three (3) to five (5) years.

9. Hot Work

Refiners are required to keep permits for hot work on file for at least one (1) year. ABS Group's recommendation is to keep permits on file for three (3) years to facilitate PSM compliance audits, which are required on three-year cycles.

10. Management of Change

A few new requirements added to management of change (MOC) include (1) performing a DMR and HCA prior to a major change, (2) including DMR and HCA findings and recommendations in MOC documentation, (3) informing employees (operations and maintenance) whose jobs may be affected by the MOC and (4) providing training on the change to these personnel if necessary.

11. Incident Investigation and Root Cause Analysis

The incident investigation element of the regulation has additional requirements. Refiners must define an effective method for conducting a root cause analysis (RCA) in written procedures for investigating and reporting incidents. The RCA of an incident, which should include a review of PHAs, SPAs, HCAs and DMRs, must include causes of the incident and information to prevent the recurrance of the incident (or similar incidents). Note that incident investigation reports must be retained for the life of the process unit.

12. Employee Participation

The employee participation requirement was modified to make sure that refiners have effective participation of (operations and maintenance) employees and employee representatives in the development, training, implementation and maintenance of PSM elements. These PSM elements would include PHAs, DMRs, MOCs, MOOCs, PSCAs, incident investigations, SPAs and PSSRs. Refiners must provide access to all applicable safety related documents and information, maintain an effective stop work authority and provide an anonymous hazard reporting program.

13. Process Safety Culture Assessment

Another new requirement is the addition of a process safety culture assessment (PSCA). The PSCA is intended to make sure that refiners implement a safety prevention strategy, increase safety orientation, decrease incidents and provide a mechanism to address deficient practices. It will also help regulators evaluate whether the refinery's focus on safety remains at a high level over time. The report findings also provide operators with the opportunity to address deficient practices by evaluating process safety culture at the facility. The regulation defines several features of a hazard reporting program that should be examined as part of the PSCA.

14. Human Factors

The purpose of adding human factors into the PSM Regulation is to provide a better understanding of the human element in facility operations and incident prevention. In most major industry incidents, human errors were found to be the underlying root cause or contributing factor to the event. Refiners will need to include a human factors analysis as part of major changes examinations, incident investigations, PHAs, MOOCs and HCAs. Human Factors will also need to be assessed for existing operating and maintenance procedures. All of these assessments will need to be completed within five (5) years.

15. Management of Organizational Change

An MOOC assessment is a new requirement of the PSM Regulation. An MOOC assessment is required for changes affecting operations, engineering, maintenance, health and safety, and emergency response. The assessment is performed prior to reducing staffing levels, reducing experience levels of employees, changing shift duration and increasing employee responsibilities.

16. Compliance Audits

While required by several California regulatory agencies, CalOSHA did not previously mandate PSM compliance audits but will now include this requirement in the upcoming changes to the PSM Regulation.

17. Process Safety Management

Another new element to the PSM requirements is the implementation of a PSM program to gauge refinery performance. Refiners must develop and implement a PSM program that is reviewed and updated every three (3) years, develop an organizational chart that identifies all personnel responsible for the PSM program's elements and maintain an effective program to track and document process safety performance indicators.

18. Division Access to Documents and Information

All PSM documentation required under this new regulation shall be made available to the oil refinery regulatory bodies when requested.

19. Implementation

This topic summarizes the requirements to maintain an effective written corrective action program to implement recommendations of a PHA, SPA, DMR, incident investigation and compliance audits and to present findings and recommendations in a timely manner. Every recommendation has to be addressed.

Guidance on the Horizon

ABS Group is developing courses and implementation tools, including information webinars, to assist in addressing the forthcoming revisions to the California Department of Industrial Relations' proposed new PSM standard for improving safety in petroleum refineries. Contact us for additional guidance or visit our Knowledge and Training centers to learn more.


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