January 22, 2024
by Allison Harper

New Process Safety Management for Refineries in Washington Coming in 2024

The Department of Labor and Industries has updated workplace safety rules targeted at preventing catastrophic events at petroleum refineries as defined in WAC Chapter 296-67 (Part B.) The potential for release of highly hazardous chemicals exists any time toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases are not properly controlled. The Process Safety Management (PSM) is the system implemented for managing the utilization of this hazardous substances, which are most often seen in refineries.

On December 27, 2023, the Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) adopted a final rule creating a new Part B in chapter 296-67 WAC Safety Standards for Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, for employers and employees working at petroleum refineries. These changes were necessary as Washington is a major crude oil refining center with the fifth-largest oil refining capacity in U.S, and to ensure that employers and employees are safe while working in the refineries. The current PSM standard has not been updated in almost 30 years – making this a highly anticipated change that will prescribe more clearly action that employers need to take to ensure compliance. The prior rules were viewed more as guidelines for employers, allowing too much discretion when considering proper safety practices. The new rules will become effective later this year, on December 27, 2024.

The new PSM standard will now include the following:

  1. Performing reviews to identify the most effective ways to control a hazard.
  2. Damage mechanism reviews. Physical degradation, like corrosion and mechanical wear.
  3. Hierarchy of hazard controls analysis (HCA). The purpose of the HCA is to identify and prioritize the risks posed by each process safety hazard, and then to identify, analyze and document inherent safety measures and safeguards for each process safety hazard.  Employers are encouraged to implement the most effective safety measures when considering competing demands, and costs when correcting hazards.
  4. Human factors program. Human factors include environmental, organizational and job factors, as well as human and individual characteristics, such as fatigue, staffing levels, training and competency, that can affect job performance, process safety, and health and safety. They should be considered in the design of machines, operations and work environments, so that these closely match human capabilities, limitations and needs.
  5. Management of organizational change. Refinery owners must develop, implement and maintain written procedures to ensure that plant safety remains consistent during personnel changes.
  6. Root cause analysis. A root cause analysis, which must be completed as part of any incident investigation, attempts to determine the initiating causes of the incident, and it requires special expertise. A root cause analysis must include an assessment of management system failures, including organizational and safety culture deficiencies.
  7. Process hazard analysis (PHA). A PHA looks closely at the effectiveness of safeguards that apply to particular processes and helps the refinery to identify, evaluate and control hazards associated with each process.
  8. Process safety culture assessment program. The safety culture assessment identifies the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety and evaluates responses to reports of hazards.

Additional information as to the updates can be found by visiting Rulemaking Activity at L&I (wa.gov)

If you have any questions about the new Process Safety Management rules other Washington Workers’ Compensation issues, please contact me at or (503) 595-6106.

Posted by Allison Harper.