RAGAGEP is an acronym for the term “Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practice.” Although this term is not defined in the PSM or RMP regulations, it is found within the Process Safety Information (PSI) and Mechanical Integrity sections. Significant controversy exists around the term and its meaning resulting, in part, in recent Request for Information (RFI) published by OSHA and EPA. See 78 Fed. Reg. 73756 (Dec. 9, 2013). At this time, EPA’s RFI is pending publication. Both RFI’s ask the public to comment whether the agencies should create a definition.

Generally speaking, existing industry codes and standards make up the bulk of information comprising RAGAGEP. These codes and standards contain mandatory and non-mandatory requirements. The issue with RAGAGEP is whether these industry codes and standards are strictly enforceable by OSHA and EPA.

This question was central to citations issued by OSHA and the subsequent administrative decision involving BP Products North America, Inc., (“BPP”) and BP-Husky Refining, LLC for the alleged failure to document compliance with RAGAGEP. Please note that this case is not a final order of the Review Commission and it is pending Commission review. The employer in this case had an internal standard for the allowable pressure drop across the inlet of a relief valve; that standard was 5-7%. The employer believed that their internal standard was well reasoned and justified. Conversely, the consensus of various codes and standards would limit the drop to no more than 3%. OSHA’s position (which was vacated) was in effect that the employer should not be allowed to develop its own standard when so many industry standards already existed. However the PSM Standard is a performance standard and the administrative law judge held that OSHA had impermissively imposed a prescriptive requirement on a performance standard. See Secretary of Labor vs. BP Products North America., & BP-Husky Refining, LLC., See pp 13-21.

In considering the case against BPP and BP-Husky, one must remember that they had defined RAGAGEP as something other than the consensus codes and standards. Often, many employers will develop policies that adopts these codes and standards without further comment. Some of these employers see the codes and standards more as guidelines rather than strictly enforceable. They should not take comfort in the BPP/BP-Husky decision as the decision upheld the employer’s right to define RAGAGEP as something different, not any perceived right to use the industry standards and codes as suggestions without without an analysis justifying an alternate position.

For more information, contact Lee Vail.

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