Safety Tip

Process Safety Management

Identify and Prevent Safety Risks
and Hazards

​Today’s evolving digital transformation has many manufacturing facilities looking to update or migrate their legacy control systems. As part of the planning process, mitigating safety risks and hazards should be high on a facility’s priority list. The potential for an accidental release of highly hazardous chemicals can occur at any time if they are not properly controlled.

Process safety management (PSM) concerns the unexpected releases of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals. A PSM program must follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.119 - Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard, which contains requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals.

In a PSM covered area, manufacturing facilities must verify that they operate hazardous processes in a safe manner. They must validate the safety of their process, which requires performing a risk analysis of the process and associated safeguards to determine the probability of a dangerous event occurring.

For significant projects, such as a control system update or migration, process hazard analyses and other elements in a PSM standard should be included as part of the design and implementation plan. Also, manufacturers should request spare parts, storage/maintenance requirements related to the control systems hardware used in PSM covered processes.

To incorporate a safer work environment overall, how can you reduce risk and ensure your process operates at acceptable levels? The below steps will help get you started:

  • ​Initiate or rejuvenate your PSM programs and guidelines.
  • ​Systematically evaluate the hazards in operating a given process unit. When planning any type of system update or migration project, perform a process hazard analysis (PHA)/hazard and operability (HAZOP) study or other audit to determine any safety-related issues or to identify those situations or potential system failures that could happen to cause an accident or issue.
  • ​Engage system integrators or other experts with different backgrounds who can provide information on your facility’s critical systems. They should:
  • ​propose any changes or deviations to a project’s equipment type, technology or methodology through a “Management of Change” process
  • work with the project team to review and provide up-to-date documentation like piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs)
  • provide quality control records related to terminations, loop checks and calibrations, if needed
  • provide information on how the new equipment functions for training purposes
  • and much more
  • ​Review the conclusions from the PHA / HAZOP discussions and ensure that they are applied properly.
  • ​Provide information on how the new equipment functions for training purposes.
  • ​Establish alarms for critical events and understand the response required for each alarm.
​In addition to the above, a third-party facilitator or an engineering consultant with broad industry experience can add value to these discussions. During the upfront planning process, the team divides the process facility into sections and addresses one unit at a time, identifying hazards and events that could cause injuries and costly damage to critical systems. Each facility must define for itself which systems are critical; this designation will vary based on company size and other criteria. You and your chosen third-party partner should consider safety, downtime, resource allocation, network traffic levels, data integrity, cyber security and other critical factors while there is still the greatest flexibility to deal with them.

Safety starts from the top-down. Its importance is conveyed through a mix of communicating safety policies, strategies and initiatives; implementing process control safeguards and action plans; and investing in training and equipment repair and replacement. If the entire company regards safety as a top priority, appropriate resources will be allocated to ensure safe operations. With these elements in place, an effective corporate safety culture can be built to keep automation systems and people safe.

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