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Decision expands OSHA’s reach on process safety management

Posted On: May. 1, 2019 12:00 AM CST

A recent ruling from an independent agency that referees disputes over citations and penalties issued by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration could expand OSHA’s overall reach, according to legal experts.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission affirmed the federal workplace safety agency’s more expansive view of its authority under its process safety management standard in Secretary of Labor v. Wynnewood Refining Co. LLC.

In that decision, a company was cited after one of its boilers exploded at a unit of the company’s facility long considered outside the scope of an OSHA regulation governing hazardous chemicals.

“Nobody thought that this was the position OSHA would take,” said Shannon Broome, managing partner of the San Francisco office of Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.

The ruling is a throwback to the previous presidential administration’s take on OSHA rules, she added. The Obama administration had greatly widened OSHA’s authority, according to officials.

“Everyone in the industry is reading this (ruling) going, wow, that is brand new,” said Micah Smith, Washington-based partner for Conn Maciel Carey LLP.

The ruling that threw other parts of manufacturing into the larger process safety management standard is a big move for OSHA, he added. “How far does this go?”