Shortly before Christmas, there was a massive fire and explosion at a fireworks market on the northern outskirts of Mexico City with a death toll of at least 32 people. This is Mexico and the pyrotechnics industry, neither of which are regulated by OSHA’s PSM standard. However, how might the fundamentals of PSM be applied elsewhere to make all communities safer?
Employee Participation is important in a communal setting such as this market. The market is said to provide an income for over 20% of the local residents. Therefore, most everyone in town has a stake in the market. Getting the vendors and community involved in the safe planning of the market is imperative. Encouraging participation also gives the local community a greater sense of ownership into the operations, thereby increasing buy-in to the safety precautions put in place.
There needs to be a plan in place for dealing with Contractors, or in this case, market vendors. It was reported that the vendors were certified by the secretary of defense to sell their products commercially and that the vendors were checked to ensure compliance. Those are great steps to take. However, in talking to some of those involved, it was apparent that not all contractors/vendors followed the rules. In order to ensure a safe marketplace for all involved, those that do not follow the rules need to be removed immediately from the site, similar to contractors at an industrial site who do not follow safety rules and are removed from the facility immediately. Employee participation plays a role in helping to identify those vendors who are not following the rules. Others need to feel enough personal responsibility and ownership that they follow the “see something, say something” mantra.
The concepts of Mechanical Integrity also apply to a fireworks market. When designing the stalls, the risks of sparks and explosions need to be taken into consideration to design a robust area. The materials of construction need to be chosen with these risks in mind, and the integrity of the structures needs to be tested and demonstrated on a regular basis. Although the initial cost may be more expensive, having an explosion proof enclosure would allow for the remaining vendors to continue operation even if one vendor had an issue and had to close due to a fire.
Involving the buyers in the Operating Procedures would also make a difference. When it is established that the vendors have a large stake in the operations, they are then able to pass that sense of importance on to the clients to make sure the clients behave safely. The CNN report states that sometimes “it was the clients who ignored the safety precautions, asking to light certain fireworks to ensure they worked, an action expressly prohibited in the market.” When the vendors are invested and buy-in to the procedures because they were involved in their development, it makes enforcement much easier. The public will always try to bend rules to get what it wants, it is up to the vendors to make sure the rules are followed by everyone at every interaction.
PSM may be aimed at chemical manufacturers, however its concepts are relevant in many situations. How does PSM process apply to other industries or facets of your life?