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Understanding OSHA’s Chemical NEP

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched its Process Safety Management (PSM) National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities (Chemical NEP) in late 2011. The program expands nationwide the original pilot program that initially covered only a few OSHA regions. The Chemical NEP focuses on conducting inspections of chemical facilities that are likely to have covered processes. Inspections under the NEP ensure that employers’ PSM programs are properly implemented and remain effective. 

The Chemical NEP covers all OSHA regions nationwide, including states that have their own OSHA plans. Unlike some similar NEPs, the Chemical NEP directive does not have an expiration date, making it effective for the foreseeable future.

Targets for Inspection

OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Plan identifies workplaces to be inspected under the Chemical NEP. A master list of possible targets is generated from four primary sources:

  • Program 3 Risk Management Plans summited to the EPA
  • NAICS code for Explosive Manufacturing
  • Database of those previously cited for PSM-related issues
  • OSHA area office knowledge of local facilities

Inspections may also arise out of accidents or catastrophes in facilities with PSM-covered programs, referrals or employee complaints.
According to the directive, every OSHA area office is expected to make three to five Chemical NEP inspections each year. On average, 25 percent of selected sites will be workplaces that use ammonia refrigeration. The remaining 75 percent will be other workplaces with PSM programs.

If you’re an employer who operates PSM-covered processes, the Chemical NEP means inspections could be coming to your workplace.


Chemical NEP inspections are designed to focus on implementation. The quality of a written PSM program comes second to its overall effectiveness when applied in the workplace. Inspections will be conducted as a dynamic list-based evaluation, formatted into a series of questions that evaluate the various elements of the PSM-covered process. Inspection questions are not publicly disclosed and are changed periodically. Questions are phrased so that a “yes” answer means compliance and a “no” answer typically results in a citation.
During an inspection you will be asked to provide the inspector with the following documentation:

  • List of PSM-covered process/units
  • OSHA 300 logs for the previous three years, including those of process related contractors
  • All injury and illness logs including those of process related contractors
  • A list of all PSM-covered process/units in the complex
  • A list of all units and the maximum intended inventories of all chemicals (in pounds) in each of the listed units
  • Process safety information (PSI) for the maximum intended inventories of chemicals that are part of their PSM-covered processes
  • A summary description of the facility’s PSM program
  • Unit process flow diagrams
  • Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), including legends
  • Unit plot plans
  • Unit electrical classification diagrams

This list represents documents typically compiled by workplaces with PSM-covered processes. You only need to provide the documents on this list that are required by the PSM or other OSHA standards applicable to your workplace.
Prior to preforming the walk-around inspection of the facility, the inspection team will request an explanation of your company’s PSM programs including, but not limited to the following:

  • A briefing on the PSM program components and how the facility implements them
  • Identification by name and position of personnel responsible for implementing the standard’s various elements
  • A description of company records used to verify compliance with standards
  • A review of the written summary description of the PSM program


In the Chemical NEP directive, OSHA specifically mentions that a single “no” answer during an inspection could translate into multiple citations. Given the potentially catastrophic nature of the hazards associated with PSM, the interrelation of PSM elements is a safeguard meant to prevent and mitigate hazards in the even that one element fails. It also means that a failure one part of this chain could affect multiple processes, resulting in multiple citations during an inspection.
If you are cited for any PSM violations you will be given instruction on what you must do to fix the problem. Abatement will be verified by a follow-up inspection. Speedy abatement of any cited violations is extremely important. If an inspector finds an unfixed violation cited during a previous inspection, you could face an additional citation for failure to abate.

© 2017 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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