Court rules OSHA must go through rulemaking on PSM change
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration acted illegally when it imposed new safety requirements on fertilizer dealers without giving them a chance to comment, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
In its decision, the court ruled that OSHA acted outside the bounds of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when it redefined “retail facility” exemptions to the Process Safety Management Standard.
OSHA tightened the standard following the West Fertilizer facility explosion in 2013, caused by a fire that detonated between 40 and 60 tons of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate. The explosion at the plant in West, Texas, killed 15 people, including 12 first responders, and caused widespread damage to more than 150 nearby buildings.
Before the rule change, facilities that derived more than half their income from direct sales to end users were exempt from the PSM requirements, which apply to facilities that handle toxic chemicals. After the change, however, ag dealers who sell anhydrous ammonia to farmers were swept into the regulatory net.
But when OSHA removed the retailer exemption, it did so without requesting public comment, which gave the Agricultural Retailers Association and The Fertilizer Institute the procedural angle for their lawsuit.
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