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With a goal of protecting workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals, a new “National Emphasis Program (NEP)” for chemical facilities is starting up, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials said.

“Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country,” Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said. “This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers.”

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The program replaces OSHA’s 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program, which covered several OSHA regions, and likewise sets out the process for inspecting workplaces covered by OSHA’s process safety management standard. Officials will randomly select facilities to inspect from a list of sites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

“During our pilot Chemical NEP, we found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry, which is also covered by the PSM (Process Safety Management) standard,” Michaels said.

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“As a result,” he said, “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.”

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