By Samantha Catone, Esq.

OSHA’s first Process Safety Management Program (PSM) was created in 1992 in response to a series of catastrophic incidents related to highly hazard chemicals (HHC). A “process” is any activity or combination of activities including any use, storage, manufacturing, handling, or the on-site movement of highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) as defined by OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

OSHA’s PSM standard aims to prevent the release of toxic, reactic, flammable, and explosive chemicals into a facility and the environment surrounding the facility, and requires employers to comply with a complex set of regulations for managing hazards associated with these processes.

While OSHA has been busy from a PSM standpoint, many businesses either don’t understand OSHA’s PSM standard, or they don’t realize it applies to them. This article will provide a birds-eye view of OSHA’s PSM standard and how to determine whether it applies to your business.


The standard applies to establishments having a “process” that involves either of the following:

  • A 1910.119 Appendix A-listed chemical at or above the specified “threshold” quantities (i.e., the amount, in pounds, necessary at any one point in time for coverage under the PSM standard). There are more than 130 chemicals in Appendix A, with threshold quantities ranging from 50 pounds to 15,000 pounds, depending on the substance.
  • 10,000 pounds or more of any flammable liquid or gas “on site in one location.”

Note: If an Appendix A-listed HHC is a flammable liquid or gas, the coverage threshold is the lower of the following amounts: the threshold quantity specified in Appendix A or 10,000 pounds.

According to OSHA, “on site in one location” means the standard applies when a threshold quantity (TQ) of an HHC exists within an area under the control of an employer or group of affiliated employers. It also applies to any group of vessels that are interconnected, or in separate vessels that are close enough in proximity that the HHC could be involved in a potential catastrophic release.

Industries that handle hazardous chemicals are required to develop an effective PSM program that protects employees, contractors and visitors. Such industries include, but are not limited to:

  • Petrochemical
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Paints
  • Adhesives and sealants
  • Food processing
  • Industrial organics and inorganics
  • Paper mills
  • Sealants and fibers


The following are exemptions from the PSM standard:

  • Covered flammable liquid/gas process involving hydrocarbon fuels used solely for workplace consumption as a fuel (e.g., propane used for comfort heating, gasoline for vehicle refueling), if the fuels are not a part of a process containing another HHC
  • Flammable liquids that are transferred or stored in “atmospheric tanks,” including 55-gallon drums, and that are kept below their normal boiling point without benefit of chilling or refrigeration
  • Retail facilities 
  • Oil or gas well drilling or servicing operations
  • Normally unoccupied remote facilities


It is critical for all business and establishments with chemical processes to assess their operations for coverage under OSHA’s PSM standard. Businesses should start by asking: “Do we have a covered process?” If the answer is yes, an effective PSM program compliant with OSHA’s complex requirements must be developed.

about the author

Samantha Catone is an associate in Goldberg Segalla’s General Liability and Construction practice groups, and focuses her practice on defending large businesses, landowners, and contractors in premises liability and construction site personal injury litigation, including matters involving New York State Labor Law.

Modern Contractor Solutions, November 2019
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