What is Process Safety?

When asked, “What is Process Safety?” the quick answer is that Process Safety helps “keep it in the pipe.” However, it goes well beyond that simple explanation. Although the term Process Safety is not in the dictionary, Merriam-Webster defines process as “a series of actions or operations conducing to an end; especiallya continuous operation or treatment especially in manufacture” and safety as “the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss” so when we put those two items together, we are dealing with protecting an operation from causing injury or loss.

When most people hear the word safety, they immediately think of personal safety; in a plant situation that involves things like wearing safety glasses and tying off when working at heights. Although these things are extremely important, they are not what Process Safety is focused on. Process Safety is more about personnel safety, rather than personal safety. It is looking at the process as a whole and works to prevent the manufacturing process from injuring people in general, rather than the individual actions of one person at one moment. Process Safety deals with the manufacturing operation; things like making sure the pipe materials are appropriate for the fluids being transported so the pipe does not spring a leak and injure a person walking by, or having safeguards in place to prevent a tank from exploding and releasing toxic chemicals to the environment if the pressure increases rapidly.

Process Safety considers all aspects of a manufacturing operation, starting with the design of the facility and continuing through operation and decommissioning. Process Safety is not a one-time thing where plants can check the box and say operations are safe. Instead, it is a way of life where any change to a process is fully reviewed and documented before it is implemented; where everyone’s concerns are heard when discussing potential hazards; and where operations are run with a spotlight on doing things the right way, every time and never compromising safety to hit a target or make an extra dollar.

Are your operations following good Process Safety practices? Contact us to review your system and put together a plan for getting things operating safer.

Process Safety is the precursor to the sustainability movement that has become prevalent lately. It helps to protect personnel, as well as protecting the environment and assets. Keeping the manufacturing process running effectively and efficiently is a major goal of Process Safety, and in doing so, the site is a safer place for people to work, the surrounding community is safer, and the plant is better able to be profitable.

The government, through its OSHA organization, has identified 14 key elements that it considers important to making sure facilities are following good engineering practices for keeping personnel and plants safe during manufacturing operations. These 14 elements make up the Process Safety Management regulation that was first introduced in the Federal Register in 1990, and was adopted as an OSHA Standard in February 1992. OSHA states the purpose of the PSM Standard as, “This section contains requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive chemicals. These releases may result in toxic, fire or explosion hazards.”

The 14 elements give a good outline of all that Process Safety entails, and looking at each one shows how each plays a role in protecting an operation from causing injury or loss. A future post will go in-depth on each element. Here is the list:

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

Everyone is not an expert at every aspect of Process Safety. Contact us to help with the areas that are not as strong at your site.