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RMP and PSM: Common Goals

by Melissa Langsdon

Chemical Plant at Night

Ensuring safety is of utmost importance to industries managing hazardous materials and processes. Two crucial regulatory frameworks, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP) rule and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, are central to this effort.  For businesses operating in relevant industries, understanding the difference between EPA’s RMP and OSHA’s PSM requirements is essential.

In general, PSM was established to protect the workplace inside the facility while RMP implemented to protect the environment and the community outside the facility. To help ensure safe and healthful workplaces, OSHA issued the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard (29 CFR 1910.119), which contains requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs).

The RMP rule, established under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, falls under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate facilities with threshold quantities of listed regulated substances. The RMP regulations require owners or operators of covered facilities to implement a risk management program and to submit an RMP to EPA.

Each standard follows distinct guidelines and protocols to prevent and alleviate the risks linked with hazardous chemicals:  


PSM applies to facilities in various industries where highly hazardous chemicals are handled, stored, processed, or manufactured, such as chemical manufacturing, oil refining, and pharmaceuticals, among others. The regulation applies to any facility where the threshold quantities of listed HHCs are present or has flammable materials, those with a flashpoint below 1000F, above 10,000 lbs onsite and no other exemption applies.

RMP applies to facilities that handle specific listed regulated substances above certain threshold quantities. Facilities covered by RMP must prepare a risk management plan, conduct a hazard assessment for potential releases and, in some cases, implement an emergency response program and a prevention program to prevent and mitigate accidental releases of these substances.


Program Requirements:

Both PSM and RMP have specific requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases.  The requirements for PSM and RMP Prevention Program 3 include elements such as process safety information, process hazard analysis, operating procedures, training, mechanical integrity, management of change, and emergency planning and response.  

With regard to differences between the regulations, PSM includes a trade secrets element, while RMP does not.  And, unlike PSM, RMP requires the submittal of a Risk Management Plan to EPA and a hazard assessment of the impact of potential releases.  Also, depending on the potential risk posed by the regulated substances onsite, RMP has different program levels (Program 1, 2 and 3) that determine the extent of emergency response and prevention activities required.

A site’s RMP program level is determined by the potential for impacts to public receptors from a worst case release, site release history, facility North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code  and whether the facility is also regulated under the PSM standard. The program levels specify requirements for release case analysis, five year accident history compilation, and type of prevention plan and emergency response program to be implemented, if any.


Reporting Requirements:

Facilities covered by PSM are required to internally compile and maintain comprehensive process safety information, including data on the chemicals, technology, equipment, and procedures used in the process.  PSM has no external reporting requirements to OSHA but internal requirements for documentation of compliance include process hazard analyses (PHAs) reports, written operating procedures, operator training records, mechanical integrity testing and inspection records, and incident investigation reports.

While RMP internal documentation requirements for Program Level 3 prevention programs are almost identical to OSHA PSM requirements, RMP does have additional requirements based on program level determination. Program Levels 1, 2 and 3 must all submit a Risk Management Plan externally to EPA, conduct and document release analysis, prepare a five-year accident history and coordinate with local response agencies.  Program Levels 2 and 3 must also implement a management system, a prevention program and an emergency response program, if applicable.

Both PSM and RMP mandates an evaluation every three years to ensure continued compliance.

In conclusion, both programs share the overarching goal of safety; they have distinct elements, applicability criteria, and regulatory bodies. It is essential for organizations to navigate these requirements carefully to ensure compliance and, more importantly, to enhance safety for their workers and the surrounding community. PSM RMP Services


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