Monday, October 12, 2015

OSHA policy changes could phase out crop fertilizer

Anhydrous ammonia, the most economical form of nitrogen fertilizer for crops, is becoming scarce, Russ Quinn reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer. Some retailers say they have stopped carrying the product in anticipation of changing Occupational Safety and Health Administration policies regarding how ammonia is regulated for fertilizer retailers.

Changes in fertilizer storage regulations were initiated after the April 2013 deadly West, Texas, fertilizer facility explosion—which was caused by ammonium nitrate, Quinn writes. President Obama in August 2013 issued an executive order to improve chemical facility and safety and security. "At that point, OSHA decided to revise the interpretation of the exemption of retail facilities from Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) regulations. The agency wants to eliminate the retail exemption for fertilizer retailers, which would subject retailers to new programs and safety rules. This, in turn, could end up costing retailers money in major renovations. Some smaller retailers may just stop selling ammonia. The deadline for retailers to comply with the OSHA policy change is Dec. 31."

OSHA "estimates the policy change will affect 4,800 fertilizer retailers," Quinn writes. "The policy doesn't affect businesses, such as gas stations, that sell small volumes of chemicals." Industry experts and OSHA are at odd over how costly the move will be to retailers. The industry says it will cost more than $20,000 per site, while OSHA estimated $2,160 per site. Several groups have joined a lawsuit "against the OSHA memorandum withdrawing the retail PSM exemption." (Read more)

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