Process Safety Management protect works
In recent years, regulators have taken a keen interest in the safe operation of companies or facilities that produce or use hazardous chemicals.
This interest came about as the result of a number of serious accidents at chemical plants in the United States and foreign countries, one of the most infamous events being the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India.
With the passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments in 1990, both the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were given the mandate of creating additional regulations for facilities possessing or using covered chemicals.
OSHA, reacting to its mandate to protect workers, acted on these initiatives and conducted in-depth inspections of a number of chemical plants. On the basis of these analyses, OSHA concluded a regulatory standard was required. The Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals went into effect in May 1992. EPA’s Risk Management Program (RMP) is currently in the final rule-making stages.
PSM is a comprehensive management system that integrates human, management, administrative and technological elements into a safety program designed specifically to protect workers within a facility and, indirectly, the public and environment surrounding a facility. It is a performance-oriented regulation establishing guidelines, describing program elements and covering the activities of each element.
While the standard applies mainly to manufacturing industries, waste and wastewater facilities also are covered by the regulation. The regulation requires that companies using one or more of 130 toxic and reactive substances above a specified amount develop and implement a PSM program. Most water and wastewater facilities use chemicals such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide and sulfur dioxide.
Other covered chemicals may be present at certain facilities. The regulation should be checked for covered chemicals and their threshold amounts.
OSHA defines process as any activity involving the use, storage, manufacturing, handling, moving or any combination of these activities at a site. When issued, it will cover most of the same elements as PSM but will mandate the protection of public health and the environment.
One important aspect of PSM is the flexibility OSHA is giving management in implementing programs. PSM is not a typical safety regulation since it does not describe specific equipment or actions required under every circumstance.
It does, however, affect all areas of the covered facility, including management, administration, engineering, operations and maintenance. It also affects the contractors and vendors who provide services to one or more of these departments, all of whom share some responsibility for successfully implementing PSM.
Some companies have trouble implementing PSM or its various elements because of the vague nature of some of the elements. The flexibility in the regulation is a two-edged sword; many companies enjoy the freedom it gives them in developing a program designed for specific situations, while others findthe lack of clear-cut guidance or specifics difficult.
Many managers see PSM as a compliance burden with no real benefit other than keeping regulators off their backs. But, they are missing the potential benefits of such a program, which include improved profitability or cost reductions, increased employee morale and enhanced public image.
The multi-faceted and interdependent nature of those key elements means that successful implementation must be done with a completely integrated approach in mind. The majority of PSM is based on a systematic approach to safety using sound engineering, good management systems and practices and common sense.