US federal court rules against OSHA on ferts policy

23 September 2016 23:09 Source:ICIS News

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acted illegally in imposing new safety requirements on fertilizer dealers.

Specifically, the federal court determined that OSHA overstepped when it redefined exemptions for retail facilities included in the Process Safety Management (PSM) standard. The changes were set to go into effect 1 October.

Following public concerns regarding the safety of fertilizers and distributors prompted in part by the 2013 deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer facility in Texas, OSHA decided to modify the definition of retail facilities.

The changes were particularly concerning to the ammonia segment, as it would have required retailers to follow the same regulations as wholesale distributors and producers.

Before OSHA undertook the revision, facilities were exempt from PSM requirements if they earned more than 50% of their income from direct sales to end users.

The issue for the court was that OSHA removed the retailer exemption without public input. That prompted the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) and The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) to file a lawsuit last September.

Retailers had concerns about the potential expense of trying to satisfy the new standard. OSHA had forecasted the cost of facility upgrades at approximately $2,160 per site, while industry groups calculated an average of $20,000 or more.

Daren Coppock, ARA president and CEO, said that although the organisation would have only been able to challenge the action of OSHA on procedural points and not the ruling itself, it was very pleased to see the court provide relief.

“OSHA made a bad decision in regulating ammonia in response to an ammonium nitrate incident, and the agency made that decision incorrectly,” said Coppock.

By Mark Milam