Wynnewood 2020 Decision Confirms Major Changes to PSM Applicability of Utilities and non-HHC Equipment

On September 28, 2012, a steam boiler at the Wynnewood Refining Company’s refinery in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, exploded, killing two employees. The explosion occurred during start-up operations amid a turnaround and originated from the Wickes boiler. The Wickes boiler was one of four boilers that provide 225-pound steam to various parts of the refinery, including to the Fluid Catalytic Cracking Unit (FCCU) and Alkylation (Alky) Unit. The Wickes was fueled by two separate fuel streams within the refinery—the refinery fuel gas system and a natural gas fuel line.[1] ( source)

)In response to the fatal explosion, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) initiated an inspection of the Wynnewood Refinery on September 29, 2012, and issued Citations on March 27, 2013, related to § 1910.119 Process Safety Management (PSM). Wynnewood appealed the Citations, arguing that PSM does not apply to the boiler, and a trial was held, beginning September 16-23, 2014 and concluding February 10-12, 2015. An Administrative Law Judge affirmed all but one of these violations and the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (the Commission) upheld the violations. On October 27, 2020, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Citations in a 2-1 decision (Scalia v. Wynnewood Refining Co.).[2]

Overview of Bases for the Wickes Boiler

OSHA’s PSM standard regulates processes that contain highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) at or above the specified threshold quantities.[3] Note that fuels used solely for workplace consumption as a fuel are excepted if such fuels are not a part of a process containing another HHC covered by PSM.[4]

OSHA defines a “process” as:

any activity involving a highly hazardous chemical including any use, storage, manufacturing, handling, or the on-site movement of such chemicals, or combination of these activities. For purposes of this definition, any group of vessels which are interconnected and separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical could be involved in a potential release shall be considered a single process.[5]

OSHA asserted multiple bases for the PSM applicability of the Wickes boiler, which Wynnewood contested as follows…

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