By Susan Frizzell
When it comes to clean air and threshold quantities (TQ’s), are you Team OSHA or Team EPA? Please take a deep breath, and let’s discuss it.
The Clean Air Act of 1990 set the requirement for Team OSHA and Team EPA to identify chemicals that pose a threat to the workforce and to the public and environment, respectively. Although the two agencies’ plans are complimentary, the list of chemicals and their TQ’s differ. But why?
Typically, OSHA standards are more stringent. TQ regulations are based on the safety of those who work with or around hazardous chemicals in the workplace. The dangers are physical and health hazards to the workers, such as shrapnel from explosions or chemical burns. Because of this, OSHA includes all explosives and all flammable gases and liquids per the rule due to the inherent catastrophic nature of the consequence and immediate effect on personnel. When there is a fire or explosion, it is more likely to have a direct impact on the nearby workers.
Respectively, the EPA standards consider proximity to chemical hazards. These regulations consider the effects outside of the walls of the facility. Air pollution could affect public health in specific quantities. If there is an accidental release, will the hazardous chemical disperse before contacting the public or having long-term environmental effects? The TQ’s can be higher before becoming harmful to the neighboring communities.
Both agencies review and amend their list of toxic and hazardous substances regularly. Some chemicals may be added to either record or have the TQ lowered due to an increase in industry incidents. Another reason for adding chemicals would be a new technology that introduces a chemical that was not used in a previous application. Chemicals can also be removed from the lists or have the TQ raised after prolonged periods of reduced usage, as determined by company filings to the agencies.
During stakeholder outreach as part of EO 13650 and OSHA’s PSM SBREFA (Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act), OSHA and EPA received many comments from stakeholders expressing confusion on the applicability and overlap between OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard and EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) regulation. In the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Congress required OSHA to adopt the PSM standard to protect workers and required EPA to protect the community and environment by issuing the Risk Management Plan Rule (RMP). PSM and RMP were written to complement each other in accomplishing these Congressional goals.
PSM requires a program with 14 specified management system elements. The RMP rule is segmented into three programs with requirements based on the threat they pose to the community and environment. Most facilities that fall under the scope of both PSM and RMP fall into RMP Program 3. Many of the requirements in RMP Programs are identical to PSM’s requirements. The overlap in coverage between the two standards is close but not complete. The Working Group on Chemical Safety and Security developed the tool on OSHA’s website to help facilities understand the requirements when both regulations cover them. The tool can be found at www.osha.gov by searching TQ and/or RMP. The tool is handy and gives a side comparison of TQ’s for RMP and PSM for over 2000 individual chemicals.
Does it matter that the TQ’s are different?
No, not really. In most cases, a facility with hazardous chemicals is included in the EPA Risk Management Plan and OSHA Process Safety Management Program. The requirements are similar and can be completed simultaneously, although the submittals are made separately. So, together the EPA and OSHA regulations protect the workforce, the public, and the environment against accidental release of hazardous chemicals. So to answer the original question posed regardless of Team OSHA or Team EPA, we are all one team with one goal.
Information for this article was sourced from the links below.