On February 2, 2011, Employees #1 and #2 were working for a petroleum and petroleum product company. Employee #1 was on top of a transport tanker into which the vice-president of the firm was transferring #1 diesel fuel, mixing it with about 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters) of #2 diesel fuel. Employee #2 was on the ground. After "splash filling" the center tank with about 300 gallons (1,136 liters) of #1 diesel fuel, the firm's vice-president attempted to transfer the remainder of the #1 diesel to the truck's front tank. He was going to do this task through "switch loading."

At 3:11 p.m. on August 26, 2015, Employee #1, who had worked with the company for three months as a forklift operator/ repacking, was working alone in the repacking area making a transfer of flammable liquid acetone from an elevated 793-gallon stainless steel intermediate bulk container (tote) to a 350-gallon stainless steel tote on the ground. In order to make the transfer, Employee #1 elevated the 793-gallon tote with a forklift. The main valve connected directly to the tote was open, and the valve connected to the transfer hose was closed.

The transfer of Class IA liquids from polyethylene drums and containers may be safety accomplished and is deemed to comply with the intent of the standards at 29 CFR 1910.106(e)(6)(ii) and (h)(7)(i)(b) when:

  1. A polyethylene drum is equipped with an approved metallic suction pump and draw tube for taking liquid through the top of the drum and the pump is electrically grounded, or
  2. The drum or container is provided with a metallic self-closing faucet which is electrically grounded.

CLICK HERE for OSHA's internal memo

OSHA does not have any provisions that require the emergency relief devices on PORTABLE TANKS to discharge to the outside of buildings. However, if portable tanks are part of a PSM-covered process, at a minimum, the employer would be required to IDENTIFY, EVALUATE, AND CONTROL [§1910.119(e)(1)] the hazard of discharging flammable and combustible materials through an emergency relief device into the inside of a building.

If this same condition exists for a non-PSM-covered process and employers have NOT properly evaluated and controlled a release inside a building or a room from emergency relief devices on PORTABLE TANKS, the employer may be cited under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act for not controlling a serious fire/explosion hazard that is likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

OSHA bases their position on which section of 1910.106 would be applicable; if the plant is an industrial (covered under 1910.106 (e)) or a processing plant (covered under 1910.106(h)).  If the operation is an incidental activity covered by §1910.106(e)(2), paragraph §1910.106(e)(2)(iv)(d) allows transfer of flammable or combustible liquids into vessels, containers, and portable tanks within a building only:

OSHA's says No; 1910.106(e)(2)(iii) does NOT require the exclusive use of fresh air for ventilation purposes.  OSHA states that 1910.106(e)(2)(iii) is a performance requirement and does NOT explicitly require the introduction of fresh air to meet the performance requirements of the OSHA standard. OSHA, under §1910.106(e)(2)(iii), expects employers to provide adequate ventilation to maintain concentrations below 25% of the LEL. In other words, if an employer covered under §1910.106(e)(2)(iii) chooses to recirculate air, then the employer must take measures to provide adequate ventilation to maintain concentrations below 25% of the LEL.  Note that the recirculation of air for ventilation purposes can result in the reintroduction of already exhausted flammable and combustible materials back to the ventilated area.  This recirculation can result in a buildup of flammable and combustible materials in the area being ventilated to rise to concentrations which are considered dangerous, i.e., greater than the 25% of the LEL.

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