The good news about the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard is that it is a performance-based standard. The bad news about PSM, well, is that it is a performance-based standard. While it provides the operator some flexibility on complying, it can often lead to being second-guessed by an agency. Not only does the operator have to comply with the regulations, the operator must  comply with and document compliance with relevant codes and standards or Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP). These include widely adopted codes such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), consensus documents such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), non-consensus documents such as the Chlorine Institute (CI) and in most cases Internal Standards.

On June 7, 2017, the United States Department of Labor – Occupational Health and Safety Administration (USDOL-OSHA), Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Office of Chemical Process Safety and Enforcement Initiatives team presented an update on OSHA’s PSM Activities. The presentation had some interesting enforcement data in OSHA’s FY2014-2016 Chemical National Emphasis Program (CHEM NEP) Update. Process Safety Management was by far the most violated standard in all FY2014-2016 CHEM NEP Inspections with 65.9% of the violations. Respiratory Protection was a very distant second at 3.8%. The most cited PSM Element was Process Safety Information (PSI) and the number one cited PSI issue was “PSI RAGAGEP compliance.”

PSM Element Description % of PSM Citations
d Process Safety Information 23.6
j Mechanical Integrity 23.6
e Process Hazard Analysis 15.3
f Operating Procedures 13.5
l Management of Change 6.4
o Compliance Audits 3.8
h Contractors 3.4
g Training 2.8
n Emergency Planning & Response 2.5
m Incident Investigation 2.1
c Employee participation 1.7
i Pre-startup Review 1.0

Source: USDOL-OSHA, CHEM NEP Update – Industry Outreach, Washington, DC, at 20 June 7, 2017.

RAGAGEP is the selection and application of appropriate engineering, operating and maintenance knowledge when designing, operating and maintaining chemical facilities with the purpose of ensuring safety and preventing process safety incidents.

It involves the application of engineering, operating or maintenance activities derived from engineering knowledge and industry experience based upon the evaluation and analyses of appropriate internal and external standards, applicable codes, technical reports, guidance or recommended practices or documents of a similar nature.

In 29 C.F.R. 1910.119(d)(3)(ii), OSHA states “[t]he employer shall document that equipment complies with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices.”

Both OSHA’s PSM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Risk Management Program (RMP) have a requirement called “Design codes and standards employed.”


29 C.F.R. §1910.119 Process safety information

(d)(3)(i)(F) Design codes and standards employed.

EPA: RMP Program 2

40 C.F.R. §68.48 Safety information.

(a)(5) Codes and standards used to design, build, and operate the process.

EPA RMP Program 3

40 C.F.R. § 68.65 Process Safety Information

(d)(1)(vi) Design codes and standards employed.

EPA’s RMP Program 2 requirement best explains the requirement to document the codes and standards used to design, build, and operate the process.

Remember, both PSM and RMP are “performance-based” standards. It is up to the operator to determine which codes and standards are best suited for their covered process.

In their PSI documentation, operators should have a list of the codes and standards that were used in designing, building and operating the process. This list should include the revision/edition that was used.

In my experience, the list of the codes and standards employed can actually come in handy. The list ensures the most practical codes and standards are being used. Engineers can identify the relief design, piping, ventilation etc. codes and standards that were used.

When OSHA or the EPA arrive for an inspection and ask us about RAGAGEP used in a covered process, operators should be able to:

  • provide a list of the codes/standards used;
  • provide a copy off the actual codes/standards; and
  • provide evidence that the codes/standards requirements were met.

Being able to meet all three (3) of the above-listed items will go a long way in demonstrating that equipment complies with RAGAGEP.