By R. Lee Vail, P.E., Ph.D.

Effective January 17, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new instructions concerning its National Emphasis Program (NEP) as it relates to chemical process subject to Process Safety Management (PSM). See Directive Number CPL-03-00-021. PSM requirements are codified at 29 CFR 1910.119.   Prior NEPs were implemented for Petroleum Refining in 2007 and 2009 and ended in 2011. With the new instructions, refining is back on the list. NEP Inspections are divided up into Programmed and Unprogrammed Inspections, each of which has its own trigger or criteria.

Unprogrammed Inspections: These inspections are initiated as the result of a complaint, referral, accidents, or catastrophes.

Initiating Event NEP Application Limits/Expansion
Complaint/referral related to PSM Standard



Inspection of contractor and host

If initiated by contractor, normally limited to complaint/referral items/subject and contractor questions
Complaint/referral not related to PSM Standard Normally limited to specific (non-PSM) issue OSHA may decide to expand to include CEMP NEP if the facility has not been inspected under PSM NEP.
Accident/Catastrophe that involves PSM Standard Follow CEMP NEP Includes an incident investigation
Accidents/Catastrophe that does not involve PSM Standard Normally limited to specific (non-PSM) issue OSHA may decide to expand to include CEMP NEP if the facility has not been inspected under PSM NEP.

Programmed Inspections: The process is initiated by creation of a list of targeted facilities based on a number of factors: facilities subject to EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP), previously OSHA cited facilities, facilities with SIC codes identified as explosive/pyrotechnincs, and other sources of available information. Approved facilities participating in OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) or Consultation Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and facilities that have had a NEP inspection in the last three years are removed from the list. Please note that VPP status does not prevent the possibility of an unprogrammed inspection. The final list is randomized and OSHA established the following annual inspection objectives.

Category Facility Type Inspection Target
1 Facilities likely to have ammonia refrigeration 25% of Programmed
2 Petroleum refineries 30 per year
3 Chemical Manufacturing 45% of Programmed
4 Other PSM Covered Facilities 30% of programmed

Otherwise, the new NEP instructions explain the process and expectations of a NEP inspection and should be considered carefully in the event of an inspection. The NEP provides a good overview of the areas to be investigated and the limitations that an employer should expect. Careful notice should be taken of the process and these expected limitations as the NEP instructions also include off-ramps to expand the investigation under certain circumstance.