What is Process Safety Management?

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We recently blogged about some best practices for OSHA inspections, but we thought we would add to that with some comments on Process Safety Management. In terms of Environment, Health and Safety concerns, a process can be any given activity (or perhaps a combination of various activities).  It can include the use of any substance that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems hazardous, whether the substance is manufactured on site or merely handled or moved from site to site. And so, process safety management (PSM) refers to the regulation of various activities that are viewed as potentially hazardous – regulation that is propagated by OSHA.

Process safety management makes use of a set of interrelated approaches for managing various hazards. Its goal is to reduce the frequency (and, ideally, to completely eliminate the occurrence) of incidents that result in harm to the individuals in the workforce or to the environment. This goal is accomplished, in part, by providing structured guidance for production design, organizational skills, operational procedures, audit programs, and other helpful tools.

A 14-Point PSM Program  

OSHA has designated the following 14 elements to work together as a process safety management program:

• Training
• Process Safety Information
• Pre-startup Safety Review
• Operating Procedures
• Process Hazard Analysis
• Mechanical Integrity
• Trade Secrets
• Employee Participation
• Contractors
• Management of Change
• Hot Work
• Emergency Planning and Response
• Incident Investigation
• Compliance Audits

Each element in the OSHA PSM program is designed to work hand-in-hand with the other thirteen. In spite of the fact that they may seem tedious and overwhelming, they are in place, of course, to guarantee the safety of employees and the environment. They can only accomplish this often-daunting task, however, if they are built on the foundation of a dedicated, involved management team and controlled access to information.

Information is Vital to Successful PSM

Without controlled and accurate information, process safety management simply cannot work properly. A company cannot be in compliance with OSHA standards if the standards are not clearly known or understood. What kind of information is needed?  It is information that relates to the following three key areas (as a minimum):

• The technology of the process- All employees and members of the management team should have an overall knowledge of the basic flow of the entire process, including the standard inventory as well as the upper and lower safety limits on variables such as pressures, temperatures and compositions.  The entire team should have a clear understanding of the effect that deviating from set safety procedures and regulations will bring.

• The equipment used in the process- All members of the company should be familiar with the tools, machines, and all equipment used on the job.  Workers should understand how to maintain the equipment in safe, working order and should understand the rules for safe usage of each piece of equipment.  A company should provide visual charts, diagrams and such to help employees understand the way the process makes use of the various pieces of machinery.  Specific instruction should be given to teach employees about precautionary steps involving the equipment’s ventilation, electrical system, emergency shut-offs, and other safety features.

• The hazards of chemicals that may be used in the process- It is crucial that the company’s work force have knowledge and understanding of the chemicals used on the job, including their: toxicity, reactivity, corrosive ability, thermal stability (for example, the effect that storage temperature has on the chemical), the permissible exposure limits and the hazards involved when mixed with other substances.
As few as one major, negative incident regarding health and safety in a given company can impact the company’s future for years to come. Information is powerful, and the company CEO who desires the assurance that plant processes are functioning on a safe, hazard-free level needs a way to access crucial information about the company processes and to get that information into the hands of the entire staff. That information is key in maintaining efficient process safety management.

The Nimonik company includes a team of process safety management experts who can assist companies with the overwhelming task of ensuring that their processes are operating within OSHA compliance levels and are hazard-free. If you would like to have the peace of mind that information and compliance can bring to your company in the safety management area, give us a call for a FREE consultation about our PSM tools that can help keep your company in the compliance mode. You can reach us on the web or by calling toll free: 1-888-608-7511.  Our customer service experts are waiting to talk with you.