Process Safety Management: What is it and why do we need it?

Dec 01, 2017
A sound Process Safety Management (PSM) program is essential to any business that has highly hazardous substances onsite. Process Safety Management is designed to manage the integrity of operating systems and processes handling hazardous substances by applying good design principles, engineering, and operating practices.
The OSHA PSM Standard “29 CFR 1910.110” describes elements associated with a management “program” rather than a management “system”. NFPA 652, “Standard on the Fundamentals of Combustible Dust”, Chapter 9, “Management Systems”, also requires similar elements as the OSHA standard. One example of this is the requirement for written management systems to manage fire and explosion hazards of combustible dusts and particulate solids. The facility owner/operator must establish written procedures for operating the facility and equipment as well as procedures and schedules for maintaining a safe operating condition for the facility. But, in order to ensure process safety, requires going beyond compliance, among other things, going beyond a written management program to a developed, value-added management system.
PSM is essential for managing complex chemical operations as well as simple operations involving hazardous materials. The elements of PSM focus on Technology, Facilities and Personnel. Key points to note are that all sites must do their due diligence in ensuring their facility is safe to operate, equipment is maintained properly, and there are proper operating procedures in place regardless of whether or not the site is covered by regulatory requirements.

Why do we need Process Safety Management?

  • To prevent major disasters involving catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals;
  • Plants have been getting larger and more complex, thus introducing more process risks and requiring a broader and deeper approach to managing these risks;
  • Weaknesses in compliance with the regulations and failure of a compliance-based approach to process safety to prevent major accidents;
  • Less public tolerance for major accidents;
  • Potential impact of a major disaster; and
  • To manage the increasing amount of people, environmental regulations, and business growth.
From a business standpoint, there are also many reasons to have an effective PSM system in place. Two of the quantitative benefits for having a sound process safety system are:
Risk Reduction
  • Process safety prevents human injury; and
  • Process safety helps significant losses and environmental damages.
Sustained Value
  • Process safety helps boosts productivity;
  • It helps produce high quality products, on time, and at lower cost; and
  • It contributes to shareholder value.
Other benefits of having a PSM system in place is that it also supports other safety and management systems such as:
  • Responsible Care (RC14001)
  • Quality; (ISO 9000)
  • Environmental compliance; (ISO 14001)
  • Worker health and safety; and
  • Process safety management works with other systems to increase efficiency.
Overall, it is everyone’s responsibility to help protect our people and environment. By putting systems in place to manage process safety, it will help reduce the potential for preventing major disasters involving the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. The question you should be asking yourself now is, “How can I integrate PSM discipline effectively to help me manage exposure in my organization?”