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What you need to know about Process Safety Management

August 28th, 2019 by Dakota Software Staff

What you need to know about Process Safety Management

A strong understanding of Process Safety Management (PSM) is critical for businesses that work with a wide range of hazardous chemicals. With a strong process safety management program in place, companies can engage in effective management of hazards that minimize worker exposure to risk and emphasize alignment with OSHA standards. In this way, organizations that emphasize adherence to a PSM program address concerns related to employee and facility safety and regulatory compliance.

Let's build a strong understanding of the basics of PSM, from a definition of the concept to the tools available to businesses for managing PSM regulations and implementing an effective safety program.

Businesses that work with hazardous chemicals need a strong PSM program.

What is Process Safety Management and why is it important?

PSM is a shortened term that refers to a specific OSHA rule, the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard. This rule was developed in response to a widespread, recognized concern related to unexpected releases of potentially dangerous liquids and gases across a number of different industries. Proper controls, oversight and employee education are vital for mitigating the possibility of accidental releases that can cause a wide range of negative outcomes. The PSM standard focuses on the "management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals."

OSHA's approach to managing these chemical hazards involves a comprehensive program that brings together tools for oversight, a variety of safe handling procedures and effective management practices. There are separate standards for the general industry and construction business categories, although both standards share the same goal and many other similarities.

Whether a business manufactures hazardous chemicals itself or transports, utilizes or stores them, it needs to have a plan in place to ensure all uses of and interactions with those substances are compliant with OSHA rules. Compliance isn't the only goal, of course. A commitment to strong PSM helps keep staff, facilities and their surrounding communities safe from accidental releases.

What are the 14 elements of PSM?

As is the case with many major standards, OSHA developed detailed guidance around the specifics needed for effective PSM, covering a variety of procedures, regulations, enforcement policies and similar concerns. A comprehensive approach to PSM involves these 14 elements:

  • Process Safety Information: Businesses need to develop documentation of chemical and related process hazards, as well as those that come from equipment and other technology used in those workflows. They must also regularly update this information to maintain accuracy about current operations.
  • Process Hazard Analysis: This comprehensive evaluation of potential hazards focuses on specific points where hazardous materials may be released and incidents where such an event happened in the past.
  • Operating Procedures: Companies need to develop proper documentation that dictates how employees can safely and reliably engage in processes involving hazardous materials, as well as response plans if accidental exposure occurs. Communication of these plans to staff is critical.
  • Employee Participation: Businesses must emphasize the involvement of employees and their representatives throughout the PSM process and as updates occur.
  • Training: Organizations must provide an overview of operations for staff who work with hazardous materials, as well as offer refresher training and document the instruction given to workers.
  • Contractors: Just as employees need to be trained and made aware of the potential hazards of the processes they engage in, a similar responsibility exists for contracted workers.
  • Pre-Startup Safety Review: Organizations have to conduct a safety review for new facilities, as well as for modified facilities whenever the process safety information is changed.
  • Mechanical Integrity: The mechanical integrity and safe function of equipment used in various processes involving hazardous substances is critical for safety. Companies have a responsibility to develop and implement plans for testing and maintaining equipment.
  • Hot Work Permit: Businesses need to secure a hot work permit when activities involving high temperatures that aren't part of regular work occur near or on a covered process.
  • Management of Change: Changes to current, documented and thoroughly considered processes require a similarly careful evaluation before any actions are taken.
  • Incident Investigation: A plan for quickly investigating workplace incidents and developing effective responses that minimize the chances of a similar accident occurring in the future is a key responsibility in PSM.
  • Emergency Planning and Response: In some cases, an incident can occur despite the best efforts of a business to address all potential concerns and mitigate the possibility of an unintended release of hazardous chemicals. An emergency action plan that informs response efforts and guides actions in time-sensitive situations are especially important.
  • Compliance Audits: A regular compliance audit helps organizations make sure all aspects of their PSM are in line with OSHA regulations. Companies must complete this process once every three years and keep copies of the two most recent audits on file.
  • Trade Secrets: OSHA acknowledges the importance of trade secrets, noting that companies can require those involved in the various processes tied to PSM to sign confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary processes and workflows.

How can my business implement, maintain, improve and track PSM considerations?

"The right PSM solution can save time and money while encouraging complaince."

PSM is a complicated consideration for modern businesses that utilize potentially hazardous chemicals, requiring that they carefully evaluate a wide range of processes from many different angles. Efficient management of PSM is therefore a vital need for companies that want to ensure strong compliance without involving excess time and effort on the part of staff. Because OSHA only provides basic rules for how information should be recorded and stored, there are many different approaches that organizations can consider.

There are effective strategies beyond the labor-intensive option of manually recording information and attempting to track it across many spreadsheets and documents and the expensive process of hiring outside professionals to manage compliance efforts. Businesses should consider PSM solutions that automate a variety of labor intensive processes, keep all aspects of PSM information easily accessible in a single digital location and allow staff to focus on areas where human input and involvement are critical. The right PSM platform allows companies to emphasize thorough compliance efforts without having to dedicate substantial employee resources to basic filing, data entry and information management tasks.

To learn more about Dakota Software's PSM solutions, get in touch with us today.

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