A new National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities is designed to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals such as ammonia.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a new National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals such as ammonia.

"Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country," says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers."

The new program replaces OSHA's 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program that covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA's process safety management (PSM) standard. The program's inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers' written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the program is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

OSHA's multi-year pilot program for PSM-covered facilities uncovered many of the same safety-related problems that had been found in an earlier program for the refinery industry, which also is covered by the PSM standard, Michaels says. "As a result, we are expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals."

Under OSHA, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. For more information, go to www.osha.gov.

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