The Importance of Third-Party Independent Process Safety Audits

In August 2023, a devastating explosion at Sherwin-Williams’ paint plant in Garland not only resulted in an injury but also raised serious concerns about the company’s adherence to process safety standards. The aftermath led to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issuing $290,000 in penalties, citing various violations. This incident emphasizes the critical importance of robust Process Safety Management (PSM) and the need for third-party independent assessments to ensure compliance with regulatory priorities and address common safety gaps.

The explosion at Sherwin-Williams’ paint plant in Garland, TX serves as a stark reminder of the potential consequences when companies overlook essential safety measures. According to OSHA’s findings, the company faced serious citations for a range of violations, including improper storage of chemicals, deficient relief system design, inadequate hazard analysis, and failure to address equipment near the control room.

The Importance of Process Safety Management:

Process Safety Management is a systematic approach to preventing catastrophic accidents and ensuring the safety of workers, communities, and the environment. It involves the identification, evaluation, and mitigation of hazards associated with processes that involve highly hazardous chemicals. A comprehensive PSM program is crucial for preventing incidents like the one at Sherwin-Williams, as it establishes clear procedures, protocols, and training to safeguard employees and facilities.  To enhance the effectiveness of PSM, companies should consider engaging third-party independent assessments and audits. These external evaluations provide an unbiased perspective on a company’s safety practices, offering insights into regulatory priorities and identifying common gaps that may have been overlooked internally.

The Sherwin-Williams incident highlights several key areas where the company fell short in maintaining a robust PSM program:

  • Improper Chemical Storage: The improper storage of chemicals posed a significant risk. A third-party assessment could have identified vulnerabilities and recommended corrective actions.
  • Relief System Design: The absence of a relief valve in the system design was a critical oversight. An independent assessment would likely have flagged this deficiency and recommended necessary modifications.
  • Inadequate Hazard Analysis: Failure to identify hazards related to self-reactive, thermally sensitive chemicals indicates a gap in the hazard analysis process. Third-party assessments bring an external perspective, helping identify overlooked hazards and potential consequences.
  • Lack of Written Operating Procedures: The absence of clear instructions and operating limits in written procedures was a contributing factor. Third-party assessments emphasize the importance of well-documented procedures, ensuring employees are adequately informed and trained.
  • Insufficient Training: The lack of refresher training at least every three years left employees exposed to potential hazards. Third-party assessments often highlight the importance of regular and updated training programs to ensure employees are well-prepared for emergencies.
  • Equipment Integrity: The failure to establish written procedures for maintaining equipment integrity, including inspections of pressure vessels and piping systems, indicated a systemic lapse. Independent assessments can evaluate equipment maintenance procedures and recommend improvements to ensure ongoing integrity.

The Sherwin-Williams incident serves as a wake-up call for industries reliant on hazardous processes to prioritize and continuously enhance their Process Safety Management practices. Engaging in third-party independent assessments and audits is not just a regulatory requirement; it is a proactive measure to identify and rectify potential safety gaps. By embracing a culture of safety and seeking external insights, companies can not only comply with regulations but also create a safer working environment for their employees and prevent catastrophic incidents.

IFO Group Process Safety Management (PSM) and Risk Management Program (RMP) auditors possess unparalleled expertise in PSM regulatory requirements and industry standards. Our expert consultants have extensive knowledge that enables them to conduct thorough audits and assessments with a focus on fostering continuous improvement rather than punitive measures. At IFO Group, we believe that PSM audits should serve as a vehicle to enhance safety protocols and operational efficiency. Our auditors are dedicated to helping organizations prevent the occurrence of the next major incident by identifying potential risks, recommending proactive measures, and collaborating with clients to implement robust safety strategies. With a commitment to excellence and a proactive approach, IFO Group’s PSM and RMP auditors are invaluable partners in ensuring the highest standards of safety and regulatory compliance within your industry.  Contact us at or at 832-403-2135 to request a free consultation.