Regulatory Reform a Big Topic at GCCA Assembly of Committees
Regulatory reform remains a high priority for the Trump Administration. President Trump has signed multiple Executive Orders on regulatory reform and task forces have been established at regulatory agencies to identify opportunities for regulatory relief. In response to the positive climate for regulatory reform, the GCCA is working with partner organizations to advance regulatory changes that would reduce burdens on the industry. During the 2018 Assembly of Committees (AOC), GCCA held a regulatory reform roundtable to discuss specific proposals to reform policies related to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). GCCA has been working closely with the International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration (IIAR) and IIAR has played a lead role in developing many of the proposals below that were discussed during the roundtable.
1. Update IDLH for ammonia and allowable APR usage based on latest science and technology.
The current IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations) for ammonia is 300 ppm. The original IDLH for ammonia was 500 ppm (parts per minute) but was revised down to 300 ppm. IDLH values are established to ensure that the worker can escape from a given contaminated environment in the event of failure of the respiratory protection equipment. The values are also intended to indicate a maximum level above which only a highly reliable breathing apparatus, providing maximum worker protection, is permitted. The highest level of protection is required above IDHL levels, which means SCBA (Self-contained Breathing Apparatus) must currently be used when entering a facility during a release event with ammonia concentrations about 300 ppm.
The current IDLH level limits the ability of trained facility personnel to mitigate the impacts of an ammonia release. Limiting the use of full-face air-purifying respirators (APRs) above 300 ppm hinders the ability of facility personnel to engage emergency shutdown and life-saving efforts to rescue and/or escort those out of the affected area. The limitation also prevents a rapid assessment of the problem and the allowance for an immediate fix. These are unnecessary restrictions that can have a negative impact on health and life safety and inhibit the ability to minimize the impacts of a release. Data supports an increase in the IDLH level to 500 ppm and permitting the use of an APR to accomplish critical tasks (defined by a standard operating procedure) for up to 30-minute exposure of levels that do not exceed 1,000 ppm. Since the IDLH level was revised to 300 ppm, the performance of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and particularly APRs, has dramatically improved. APRs have consistently been shown to work reliably at levels of several thousand ppm for ammonia. OSHA’s Maximum Use Concen-tration for a full-face respirator is 50 times the Permissible Exposure Level that, for ammonia, equates to 2,500 ppm.
Allow the use of APR respirators to help mitigate incidental impacts of releases up to 500 ppm. Personnel who have been trained to follow Standard Operating Procedures should be allowed to wear APRs to engage in critical tasks such as rescue and emergency shutdown at levels up to 1,000 ppm for a maximum of 30 minutes of exposure. By allowing the use of APR up to 1,000 ppm, personnel will have adequate protection and, even in the event of APR failure, sufficient time to escape the situation.
2. Revise the interpretation of “immediate” to mean 15 minutes for local reporting and eight hours for national and state reporting.
Under current policy, an ammonia release above the reportable quantity of 100 pounds over 24 hours must be reported “immediately.” While the term “immediately” has not been defined in regulation, the EPA interprets “immediate” to mean 15 minutes from the time the facility knew about the reportable release. Under the current interpretation, notifications must take place at the local, state, and national levels within 15 minutes or the facility will be vulnerable to citations.
The current interpretation of “immediate”results in the occupation of critical facility resources that could otherwise be used to evaluate and respond to the ammonia release. The first 30 minutes of an ammonia release are critical to minimizing health and life safety risks, as well as mitigating off-site consequences. In many cases, release quantities and impacts can be minimized with quick action by facility personnel. Contacting local responders within the first 15 minutes is important, as local authorities are positioned to respond and have a meaningful impact on the situation. Equally important is the rapid assessment and action by facility personnel. Many ammonia facilities have a small number of employees and diverting these resources can hinder the ability to take critical actions in the first 30 minutes after a release. The notification of the National Response Center (NRC) and state authorities does not serve the same purpose as the notification of local authorities. National and state notifications do not trigger actions that will assist in the short-term response to the release at the facility. Delaying the national and state notification will allow the facility to better utilize its resources during the first critical minutes after a release. If the facility makes the appropriate local notification within 15 minutes, the impact of delaying national and state notification is minimal.
EPA should revise its interpretation of the term “immediate” to mean 15 minutes for local notifications only. National and state notifications should be made within 8 hours of knowing about the release. Facilities should be able to focus on the situation at hand and fully utilize its resources to minimize the impacts of the release. Facilities should not be cited for reporting violations if they make local notifications within 15 minutes and national and state notifications within eight hours.
3. Develop a new reportable quantity for aerosol releases of ammonia.
The current reportable quantity for ammonia is 100 pounds over a 24-hour period. This applies to both aerosol and liquid releases of ammonia. The 100-pound reportable quantity was established based on risks to aquatic life with ammonia releases into water.
The characteristics of liquid and aerosol ammonia releases are very different.
The current 100-pound reportable quantity for liquid releases is appropriate, as liquid releases could reasonably impact water sources. However, aerosol releases are very unlikely to impact water sources. The amount of ammonia needed to result in a negative environmental impact is much greater for aerosol releases. Aerosol ammonia quickly dissipates into the air, minimizing the risk of environmental impact. In many cases, releases occur in machine rooms where proper emergency ventilation is required by EPA and OSHA regulations. These ventilation systems immediately kick in at set ammonia concentrations, dispersing the released ammonia into the atmosphere. The current reportable quantity level of 100 pounds for all ammonia releases results in reporting and response to releases that pose no significant threat to the environment. In addition, it is very difficult and impractical to measure 100 pounds of aerosol release in 15 minutes. The current policy results in significant over-reporting of minor releases as facilities work to avoid citations. This over-reporting of non-life safety ammonia releases ties up critical fire, HAZMAT teams and other resources that may be needed for emergencies involving other health and life safety response priorities. In addition, the unnecessary deployment of multiple emergency response personnel and equipment can cause traffic hazards. Finally, the reporting burden, particularly given the current interpretation of “immediate” as 15 minutes, ties up important facility resources that could be used to assess and address the release situation.
A new category for reportable quantities of aerosol releases of ammonia should be established. The reportable quantity should be set at 500 pounds within a 24-hour period. The current 100-pound reportable quantity should remain intact for liquid ammonia releases when 100 pounds has been released within 24 hours. The creation of a separate reportable quantity for aerosol releases of ammonia would make the agency’s reporting policy much more risk-based and reduce the unnecessary deployment of critical emergency response resources.
4. Reduce burdens of using reduced oxygen technology for fire protection.
OSHA currently requires the use of supplied air respirators (SARs) in workplaces where oxygen levels are lower than 19.5 percent. The OSHA requirements differ from policies in place in Europe that allow workers in reduced oxygen environments without SARs under certain protocols.
Increasing numbers of GCCA members are considering the use of reduced oxygen systems for fire protection. However, the current OSHA standard places added burdens on facilities implementing reduced oxygen technologies. Requiring SARs is a costly and inefficient practice that has been proven unnecessary by hundreds of facilities in Europe over the last 10 plus years.
Through OSHA’s enforcement discretion, permit the entrance of employees into reduced oxygen environments under certain protocols. Protocols would include specific time ranges for worker exposure to reduced oxygen environments, worker training, facility planning, and atmospheric monitoring. GCCA believes that these are common sense reforms that protect safety and health while reducing regulatory burdens. GCCA’s regulatory reform roundtable will present an opportunity for organizations in the food and industrial refrigeration industries to discuss these and other proposals to reduce regulatory burdens on the cold chain.