Oil Refineries Focus of New Process Safety Management Regulation

Will the new regulation for oil refineries be in addition to Section 5189, the process safety management regulation adopted in 1992?

The scope and application portion of Section 5189, process safety management (PSM) of acutely hazardous materials, states, in part, that the regulations there “…are intended to eliminate to a substantial degree, the risks to which employees are exposed in petroleum refineries, chemical plants and other facilities.”

The scope and application portion of newly adopted Section 5189.1, however, clearly states that for petroleum refineries, Section 5189.1 supersedes section 5189.


On August 6, 2012, the Chevron refinery in Richmond experienced a chemical release and fire. The Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Refinery Safety was convened and issued a report that raised concerns and made recommendations relating to the safety of California’s oil refineries.

The recommendations were to form an Interagency Refinery Task Force (IRTF) to coordinate revisions to California’s PSM and accidental release program, strengthen regulations, and improve emergency preparedness and response procedures.

Following publication of the report in 2014, 26 hearings and meetings were held in 2014 and 2015 to discuss PSM and receive participant input.

Major Elements

It should be noted that all items within the regulation are to be in writing. Following is a summary of Section 5189.1’s major elements as outlined by the IRTF:

• Conduct damage mechanism reviews. There are processes that result in equipment or material degradation, such as equipment corrosion or mechanical wear.

• Conduct a hierarchy of hazard controls analysis.

• Implement a human factors program.

• Have a plan for organizational change.

• Use a root cause analysis when investigating incidents.

• Process hazard analysis.

In all, there are 16 major areas within the regulation, including damage mechanism review, mechanical integrity, contractors, and pre-start-up reviews of new, modified and turnaround work, to name a few.

For a brief summary of the regulation, see the Department of Industrial Relations press release at www.dir.ca.gov.

For the entire regulation, see www.dir.ca.gov.

This regulation was passed by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on May 18, 2017 and has been submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for approval. OAL has 30 days to approve the new rule.

The Labor Law Helpline is a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.

Staff Contact: Mel Davis