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.

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.

Risky Matrices

Risk matrices are widely used in the process industries. Details vary considerably from company to company, particularly with regard to the size of a risk matrix, but generally a process such as the following is used.

1. A hazard is identified.

2. The consequence of that hazard is determined. The most important consequence is usually do with safety, but environmental, economic and public relations impact can also be considered.

Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS)

The SEMS rule applies to oil and gas operations in U.S. waters. It is administered by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE). The rule holds the facility accountable for the overall safety of the offshore facility, including ensuring that all contractors and subcontractors have safety policies and procedures in place that support the implementation of the operator's SEMS program and align with the principles of managing safety set forth in API RP 75.

Hard Times for Culture Change

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. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it can be instructive to examine how previous generations affected cultural change with respect to industrial safety and environmental performance, and to consider how their techniques and approaches may apply to our times.