Understanding the Importance of Process Safety Management

In workplaces where the handling of hazardous chemicals is common, ensuring the safety of employees and the surrounding community becomes a top priority. This is where Process Safety Management (PSM) steps in as a vital framework mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States. PSM is not just a set of rules; it is a comprehensive approach that governs the handling, storage, transportation, and usage of highly hazardous substances.

PSM involves the management of highly hazardous chemicals – substances that are toxic, flammable, reactive, or explosive. These substances pose significant risks if not handled with extreme care and adherence to specific protocols. PSM offers a structured set of guidelines comprised of 14 essential elements that organizations can adopt to strengthen safety procedures and align with OSHA’s guidelines.

14 Elements of a Process Safety Management Program

  1. Employee Participation. It is critical to develop a written participation plan by consulting with employees.  Once the appropriate PSM content is developed, make sure that all employees have access to this information.
  2. Process Safety Information. Details on hazards, technology and equipment should be compiled before analysis to be used by employees to gain an understanding of the hazards that the process equipment and chemicals present.
  3. Process Hazard Analysis. This task involves a team of employees identifying potential hazards and the effects of control failure on the health and safety of employees.  Often details are compiled from facility siting, human factors, previous incidents, and control failures.  It should be noted that the Process Hazard Analysis must be revalidated every five years to ensure sufficient control.
  4. Operating Procedures should be created for each operating phase as well as operating limits. The worksite should have documented procedures certified annually for startup/shutdown, normal, temporary, and emergency operations, operating limits, deviations, and potential hazards/controls.
  5. Staff Training is to be conducted regularly and documented. This training includes a process overview, safety and health hazards, procedures emphasizing emergency in addition to safe work practices. Training on PSM should be repeated and documented at a minimum every three years.
  6. A Contractor according to PSM is defined as an individual performing work on or adjacent to a covered process, not applying to incidental services (janitorial, food & beverage, mail or laundry service). It is the employer’s responsibility to inform the contractor of known hazards related to work performed and the process as well as evaluate contractor safety performance.  Contractors should be educated on the emergency plan and safe work practices such as lockout/tagout, confined space entry and opening process equipment.  Periodic safety performance evaluation should be completed to ensure contractors are working to OSHA obligations.
  7. A Pre-startup Safety Review is to be performed for new and modified facilities. This review helps verify that the construction is in accordance with design specs, procedures are in place, changes have been reviewed for hazard (PHA/MOC), actions from hazard review have been resolved and employee training is complete.
  8. Mechanical Integrity is to be maintained through inspections, testing and quality assurance. Mechanical Integrity inspections are required over a periodic timeframe and must be well documented.  Inspections include maintenance procedures and training, inspection/testing on process equipment and documentation of test and frequency and method per good engineering practices.  All deficiencies should be corrected before further use and added to a quality assurance program.
  9. Hot Works Permits are issued whenever there are hot work operations. It is important to document that the required fire protection has been implemented prior to work and that personnel and equipment are authorized to set up where hot work is to be performed.
  10. Utilize Management of Change procedures to evaluate hazards whenever changes are made to the process, chemicals, technology, equipment, procedures, or facilities before startup. Those reviewing need to consider the impact on health and safety, process safety information, operating procedures, training of employees and contractors, technical basis of the change and time authorization requirements for the change.
  11. Incident Investigation is to be promptly performed on events which have or could have resulted in a catastrophic chemical release. The investigation should be initiated no later than 48 hours after the incident occurred.  It is important to involve employees are knowledgeable in the process and to document and report findings.
  12. Emergency Planning & Response for the entire plant. This action plan must include a pre-plan for catastrophe, as well as how to train and equip workers and drills to run.
  13. Compliance Audits ensure that the employer complies with the OSHA 1910.119 standard. This internal evaluation is to be conducted at least every 3 years. Upon evaluation, the employer is to develop a report of findings as well as address deficiencies.
  14. Trade Secrets within information related to PSM are kept confidential. An employer can enforce confidentiality agreements if necessary.  Examples include Investigations, Procedures and Emergency Planning.


Why is PSM Essential?

Preventing Accidents:  PSM drives companies to evaluate their operations and disseminate crucial safety information. This fosters a more skilled workforce and reduces workplace accidents, creating a safer workplace.

Promoting Proper Use:  By educating employees on the dangers of these substances and outlining precise procedures for their handling, PSM ensures their proper usage. This not only reduces product waste but also minimizes the occurrence of workplace accidents due to mishandling.

Simplifying Safety Processes:  Leadership can utilize the 14 elements of PSM to create robust internal safety policies and procedures. Integrating these elements into decision-making conversations fortifies a culture of safety within the organization.

Protecting Employees:  Prioritizing employee safety fosters a positive workplace environment, enhancing morale and diminishing costs linked to health emergencies or extensive training programs.

Fostering Coordination:  PSM encourages seamless communication across all departments within an organization. By operating under the same safety protocols, teams synchronize efforts and facilitate effective coordination between management and employees.

Safeguarding the Public:  Implementing PSM does not just benefit the workplace; it also extends to safeguarding the surrounding community. Industries dealing with potential risks, such as nuclear power plants, can use PSM to educate employees on safeguarding neighboring residents from exposure to hazardous materials.

Process Safety Management is not just a regulatory requirement; it’s a comprehensive strategy that promotes a culture of safety, minimizes risks, and protects both employees and the community. By adhering to its principles and integrating its elements into everyday operations, organizations drive their commitment to safety while complying with regulatory standards.

IFO Group expert PSM consultants bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to help you navigate and secure industrial processes. Through comprehensive assessments, our experts meticulously evaluate the severity and likelihood of releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals, providing a clear understanding of potential hazards.  We then create tailored strategies to effectively mitigate these risks, ensuring a safer workplace.

Trust in IFO Group consultants to safeguard your operations through proactive risk identification and mitigation approaches.  Contact us at info@ifogroup.com or at 832-403-2135 to request a free consultation.