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What Is Process Safety Management and Why Is It Important?

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on November 7, 2018 at 10:28 AM

Are you prioritizing process safety management (PSM) in your organization? Each workplace has its own unique set of challenges and safety concerns. That’s why there is no single best approach to mitigating risk or solving safety issues. But processes and practices like PSM exist so that organizations can take a well-thought blueprint and adjust it to their specific needs.

Let’s take a look at what process safety management is and why it’s important to integrate into your organization.

Process Safety Management: A Brief Overview

By definition, process safety management is a regulation put into motion by OSHA that looks at all processes that involve handling, using, storing, moving, or manufacturing highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs).

All aspects of how HHCs are interacted with are contained within process safety management regulations. PSM was designed as an analytical tool that helps companies prevent harmful HHCs from being mishandled or released.

The result of OSHA’s regulations can be broken down into 14 elements that comprise the entire scope of process safety management:

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

When leveraged correctly, these elements in a process safety management program should be able to prevent fires, explosions, and the release of hazardous chemicals that could pose a safety risk to workers or the general public.

Companies should focus on each of the above elements both as a whole and as interlinked with the other elements. Each element either contributes to other elements or requires other elements to be completed in order to leverage the element’s information. PSM requires a great deal of interdependency between elements and understanding how they relate to and work together is critical for your success.

In simpler terms, think of a process as an activity or a combination of events that lead to a result. Therefore, process safety management is the ability to understand how each phase or event can affect other phases in order to mitigate potential risk.

PSM Is Legally Required by OSHA

The environmental health and safety industry is filled with best practices, regulations, procedures, and processes, some of which are required by law to be implemented and some of which are simply good for business. But make no mistake that process safety management is one that is legally required by OSHA.

PSM was designed to prevent catastrophic events, such as the major explosion at a Texas oil refinery in 2005 that killed 15 workers and injured almost 200 others. After further investigation, it was determined that safety issues were the culprit behind the vapor cloud coming into contact with liquid hydrocarbons.

Of course, the leak didn’t just happen. Rather, it was the result of a series of events, each of which could have been prevented. Telos, the consulting firm hired to investigate the explosion, determined that minor things like falling blocks of concrete, thinned pipes, employees being subjected to fumes, and broken alarms all contributed to the disaster.

This is a classic example of why process safety management is such a critical component to any EHS strategy. Minor details can quickly amount to catastrophic results, which is why leaders should examine every phase of a process to ensure the highest level of safety possible.

How to Implement Effective Process Safety Management into Your Organization

Even a strong process safety management program is subject to wear and tear if not properly maintained. In order to maintain optimal performance of your program, it’s imperative you continually review your plan that can support its integrity. This requires ongoing support from company leadership, keeping your workforce engaged and informed, and helping your team feel fulfilled, committed, and motivated across the board.

Let EHS Insight help you strengthen your process safety management program to ensure a safe work environment for all. Our EHS software was designed to offer organizations a centralized system for documentation and EHS management, along with the ability to deliver data-driven insights to help guide your decision-making.

Topics: Safety Management, Risk Management, Compliance, OSHA

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