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…

…Read the rest of this article on trinityconsultants.com.

To provide more details on the decision and it’s implications, our experts have developed this resource document (PDF) available for download. Please contact us with any questions.

Talk to a PSM Expert About your PSM Boundaries

The PSM experts at Provenance Consulting are here to help you understand the implications of this ruling on your PSM compliance. If you are interested in speaking to one of our experts, simply request your consultation online and we will be in contact with you within 24 business hours. If you need immediate assistance, please call our office at 806.273.5100 to be connected with our team. This consultation is free of charge and will not include a sales pitch.