What is Process Safety?

For facilities that deal with chemical processing or hazardous or flammable materials like refineries, oil production sites (onshore or offshore), or chemical plants, there is a constant threat of accidental release or exposure to hazardous materials (liquids or gases) that may affect the personnel, environment, or the neighboring public. Examples of these hazards include flammable materials, toxic releases, or environmentally damaging wastes.

Which is why "Process Safety" is a big factor in all forms of facility leadership, and is an integral part of safety management that is responsible for the control of major hazards involving human safety (employees and the public), environmental damage, and major business losses.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines the problem like this:

Unexpected releases of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals have been reported for many years. Incidents continue to occur in various industries that use highly hazardous chemicals which may be toxic, reactive, flammable, or explosive, or may exhibit a combination of these properties. Regardless of the industry that uses these highly hazardous chemicals, there is a potential for an accidental release any time they are not properly controlled. This, in turn, creates the possibility of disaster.


OSHA also has a publication relating to a "Process Safety Management" to address these risks, consisting of 14 main elements (OSHA 1910.119):

  1. Process Safety Information
  2. Process Hazard Analysis
  3. Operating Procedures
  4. Training
  5. Contractors
  6. Mechanical Integrity
  7. Hot Work
  8. Management of Change
  9. Incident Investigation
  10. Compliance Audits
  11. Trade Secrets
  12. Employee Participation
  13. Pre-startup Safety Review
  14. Emergency Planning and Response

Which is why it is good management to develop separate programs to control and mitigate these risks, depending on their scope of operations and the materials they handle.

Check out: What Is A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) And Why Is It Important?

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