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Circuit court upholds OSHA citations in PSM case

Boilers can be a part of a covered process.

Posted October 29, 2020

In a recent ruling, the 10th circuit upheld OSHA citations in a process safety management (PSM) case, stating that boilers can be a part of a covered process, even though they do not contain hazardous chemicals. The court determined that boilers can be interconnected to a covered process – so if the boiler explodes, a PSM violation can occur. In this instance, the boiler was connected to two other parts of a refinery that did contain highly hazardous chemicals.


After a boiler exploded at a refinery, OSHA cited its owner for violating §1910.119, which creates a standard for process safety management (PSM) of highly hazardous chemicals. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) upheld the violations. The refinery argued that §1910.119 does not apply to the boiler that exploded as it does not contain highly hazardous chemicals.

In its ruling, the court noted that the regulation defines “process” as “any activity involving a highly hazardous chemical,” and that the phrase “any activity involving” is broad enough to mean vessels need only be part of any activity that involves a highly hazardous chemical. In this case, the boiler was interconnected by a pipeline to two parts of the refinery that did contain highly hazardous chemicals.

The 10th circuit covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho.

This article was written by Rachel Krubsack of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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