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Safety Moment #55: A Few More Process Safety Basics

July 28, 2018
Process Safety Management Basics

The topic page Process Safety Management at the Sutton Technical Books site noted that the term ‘Process Safety Management’ can become somewhat diluted to the point where it can carry such a variety of meanings that it begins to lose any meaning. In response to this concern we suggested that we go back to basics, and that we should consider just those three words: Process, Safety and Management, and use them to frame the definition.

The post generated a considerable volume of thoughtful and useful responses, so we continue the theme of tightening down on the meaning of the phrase ‘Process Safety Management’ in Safety Moment #55: A Few More Process Safety Basics.

  1. PSM programs typically are constructed around a set of management elements. (OSHA has 14, CCPS has 20.) They are dialects of the same language. But of them all, unequivocally, the most important element is Employee Participation. And it’s not called ‘Communication’, and it’s not called ‘Culture’. It’s called Participation.If employees and contract workers at all levels (ranging from the short-term contractor or the temporary receptionist, up to the CEO) are engaged in the program, then its goals will be achieved. Hence, a ragged operating manual with coffee stains all over it is better than a pristine document that sits on a shelf.
  2. Next we have Management of Change. If a facility is properly designed and constructed, then all incidents occur because someone, somewhere made a change that took the system outside its safe limits (for which numbers are required). Some changes, such as corrosion under insulation, are covert — they are the trickiest to manage. 
  3. Finally, we have Hazards Analysis. If you don’t know what the hazards are then you can’t fix them. And hazards analysis is not just to do with people sitting in a room talking to one another. It’s a way of thinking (back to Employee Participation). So, if, before opening a valve, a technician “Takes Two” and thinks through the potential for “Reverse Flow” or “Wrong Materials” then the hazards analysis program is working well.
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