- Recognize the dangers associated with a catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals
- Recall the purpose of Process Safety Management
- Identify the possible causes of hazardous chemical releases
- Identify Process Safety Management Program components
- Recognize how a culture of safety contributes to the effectiveness of Process Safety Management
- Identify elements of Process Safety Information (PSI) and Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) that keep employees safe
- Recall basic criteria for Emergency Planning and Response, Training, Pre-startup Safety Review, Management of Change, and Operating Procedures
According to the U.S, Chemical Safety Board, over 10,000 American workers are harmed by incidents involving chemicals each year.
Process safety management is a comprehensive approach to prevent chemical releases. An effective process safety management program includes an evaluation of the whole process including design and technology, and other elements that might impact the process. Chemical safety starts with a thorough examination of work operations to identify and control risk and potential hazards related to handling of chemicals.
Process safety management increases safety for the workforce. Now, small businesses with limited resources might use other ways to decrease the risks associated with hazardous chemicals in the workplace, but development of a process safety management program is the operating standard. An effective process safety management program requires employers to compile a written process information resource. This information enables workers to identify and understand the hazards posed by processes that involve highly hazardous chemicals.
As part of the process safety information package, you’ll find technology and equipment information. Process technology information includes higher level information like block or process flow diagrams. These diagrams are used as visual tools to help users understand the process. Process equipment information includes more detailed information such as materials of construction, and piping and instrument diagrams.
The Clean Air Act requires safety professionals to talk with workers about efforts to develop and implement process safety management program elements and hazard assessments. This includes developing a written plan on how to engage workers for participation, how to train and inform them of any findings from an incident investigation if they were directly affected.
The process hazard analysis (PHA)—sometimes called the process hazard evaluation—is critical when determining potential failure points in a process. All processes covered by the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard have to be analyzed.
The process hazard analysis addresses:
- Hazards of the process
- Identification of any previous incident which had potential for catastrophic consequences in the workplace
- Engineering and administrative controls and how to apply detection methodologies to provide early warning of releases
- Consequences of engineering or administrative control failure
- Facility siting
- Human factors
- Possible safety and health effects of control failure on employees
Upon completion of the PHA, your employer establishes a system to:
- Promptly address and resolve the team’s findings and recommendations
- Document future actions and resolutions
- Complete actions as soon as possible
- Develop a schedule to complete actions
- Communicate actions to employees whose work may be affected
Operating procedures describe tasks, data, and safety and health precautions, and must be accessible to employees whose work is part of a process. At a minimum, the procedures should include the steps for each operating phase, emergency shutdown operations, safety and health considerations, properties and hazards of chemicals used in the process, and controls in case exposure does occur.
Examples of preventing exposure include engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
Engineering controls consist of:
- Physical containment of the hazards
- Mechanical means to remove personnel from contact (for example: exhaust ventilation)
Administrative controls protect personnel against exposure and duration of exposure to hazards.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) used for chemical exposures includes:
- Various types of respirators to eliminate or reduce the inhalation exposure
- Protective clothing for the hands, face, and body
What’s a good first practice to increase chemical safety? One method is to reduce the inventory of chemicals on site to below threshold quantities, which decreases the chances of a catastrophic incident. If reducing inventory isn’t possible, then spreading the inventory to several locations on site is a good option. That way, if a chemical release does occur in one location, the smaller amount that’s released won’t constitute a catastrophic condition. The idea is to lower the concentration of hazardous chemicals stored together to minimize the risk of a major accident.
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