Process Safety Management

Process Safety Management (PSM)

Many of the publications that we offer are to do with the topic of Process Safety Management (PSM), or with related topics such as the offshore Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) and Safety Cases. An overview of the topic of Process Safety Management is provided in the articles of this topic. 

Process Safety Management (PSM) is not new; indeed it has always been an integral part of the process industries. (If it has to have a start date then the explosion at the Flixborough plant in the year 1974 is probably a good choice — which is why the picture at the top of this page is from that disaster.) Companies have always carried out activities such as the writing of procedures, planning for emergencies, training of operators and the investigation of incidents. But it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s that PSM programs became more formalized and regulated. In the United States the key regulation was 29 CFR 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, from OSHA (the Occupational Safety & Health Administration), introduced in the year 1992. This regulation served as a model for PSM programs in many other nations and for internal programs developed by many large energy and process companies.

The Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS 2007b) provides guidance as to what constitutes a PSM event.

  • It must involve a chemical or have chemical process involvement;
  • It must be above a minimum reporting threshold;
  • It must occur at a process location; and
  • The release must be acute, i.e., it must occur over a short period of time.

Contractors in the Process Industries

Contractors play a vital and increasingly important role in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of process and energy facilities, as can be seen from the chart shown below. It can be seen that, over the last twenty years or so, the number of contractor work hours has increased by about a fact of fifteen, whereas the number of hours worked by employees of the host companies has hardly doubled. (The offshore oil and gas industry is particularly reliant on contractors.)

Fault Tree Analysis

Risk can be analyzed in one of two basic ways: inductively or deductively, that is either bottom-up or top-down. In a deductive analysis a system failure is postulated. The analyst then works backwards to deduce what combinations of events could have occurred for the system failure to have taken place (a detective solving a crime is thinking deductively). Fault tree analysis, the topic discussed in this section, is deductive. An inductive analysis works in the other direction. A single failure, such as a pump stopping or a valve closing at the wrong time, is postulated.

Hard Times for Culture Change

Culture Change Process Industries. There has been much discussion in recent years as to how to develop new and improved cultures within the process industries. There appears to be an implicit assumption in these discussions that ours is the first generation to wrestle with the problem of creating a new culture.

Safety Manual Process Industries

The Safety Manual

Safety Manual Process Industries. Managers and technical experts responsible for the management of a facility’s safety program will generally develop a manual that is available to all employees. The content and scope of the 'Safety Manual for the Process Industries' will vary according to each company’s needs and circumstances. Provided below is an outline Table of Contents for such a manual.

Lowest Level of Risk (BSEE)

Overview (BSEE Risk)

As part of its Well Control Rule BSEE appears to have made a major change in the manner in which offshore risk is to be managed. Section 250.107(a)(3) states,

[y]ou must protect health, safety, property and the environment by utilizing recognized engineering practices that reduce risks to the lowest level practicable when conducting design, fabrication, installation, operation, inspection, repair, and maintenance activities.

Acceptable Risk

Acceptable Risk is the level of risk that a community is willing to accept for a project to go forward or for a facility to continue to operate. It is a subjective value depending on factors such as benefit to the community and familiarity with the hazards.

Two Too Many Common Causes

Common Cause Effect: We write the occasional article to do with lessons to be learned from the on-going, slow motion crisis at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. The intent is to look at events such as this through process safety management eyes to see what lessons we can learn and possibly to come up with insights that can help the managers who are trying to cope with this situation.


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