Process Safety Management (PSM) is an analytical tool used to prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) and improve safety in the workplace. As defined by OSHA and the EPA, HHCs are chemicals that can pose physical or health hazards to workers or the surrounding community. These chemicals are usually toxic, reactive, flammable, and/or explosive.
Any company that uses, stores, manufactures, or handles, or moves HHCs will need to follow the PSM requirements as outlined in the OSHA standard CFR 1910.119, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals.
This standard was published in 1992 and specified what an effective process safety management program looked like, which includes 14 parts:
Process Safety Information
Process Hazard Analysis
Hot Work Permit
Management of Change
Emergency Planning & Response
It is a thorough and systematic plan for evaluating the dangerous chemicals and controlling processes to prevent or minimize the consequences of an accidental release. Process safety management programs take a close look at processes that use HHCs, taking into consideration:
The design of the process
The technology used
Procedures for emergencies, etc.
By using such a comprehensive method, PSM helps businesses foresee problems and feel confident they can address problems if they arise while reducing the risk of a catastrophic spill or leak.
PSM and Visual Communication
An important part of process safety management is assessing processes and making sure the people involved in those processes understand the chemicals they are working with and the possible dangers. They need to know how the process works, what daily operations and maintenance look like, and how to respond when irregularities occur.
To facilitate this, effective PSM programs use visual communication so it’s easy to understand what’s happening where. These visuals could be warning signs, instructions, gauge markers, pipe marking labels, and more. Posting clear visual cues also tends to increase efficiency, since people can quickly get the important information they need to perform their jobs.
Posting visuals also improves a PSM program by translating your documented program to the physical workplace. Training can be forgotten over time, but visuals can reinforce procedures.
The signs and labels you post should be easy to understand and follow standard formats. Consistency is key in a visual communication system. OSHA requires that detailed information about the chemical hazard, including details on reactivity, exposure limits, and more, be included on the label.
Additionally, pipe marking labels should use specific formats. This consistency will help your facility stay compliant and help workers do their work. For example, if someone needs to trace a pipe in a system, clear labels will make that process much faster.
Having an effective process safety management program is much more than just safely handling extremely hazardous chemicals. By regulating the how an HHC is stored or manufactured and minimizing the risk of an accidental leak or spill, it will keep your workers safe from severe injury or illness, keep your workplace from possible damage, and ensure the environment is’s negatively affected.
Visual communication is essential to occupational safety and this is especially true if the workplace is a notoriously hazardous mine. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requires that mine operators follow safety guidelines to reduce the risks of safety hazards. Mines should also employ visual safety tools such as safety signs and labels to increase safety awareness and keep operations in the workplace running smoothly.
The visuals you post in your mine will depend in part on the type of mine you operate—metal, nonmetal, coal, underground, surface—but there are many basic safety signs you should post. In this post, we’ll examine common types of signage used in mines and explore ways you can implement these visual tools in your own mine.
Potential explosions, particularly in underground mines, can pose a serious threat to safety.
At the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, for example, inadequate ventilation systems allowed for a buildup of coal dust and methane in the mine. This led to an explosion 1000 feet beneath the surface that killed 29 miners in 2010.
Installing proper ventilation systems is critical to preventing explosions, but signs can help employees do their part to decrease explosion risks. Danger signs that alert people to the presence of flammable materials and possible ignition sources are important, as well as signs instructing people not to smoke or have open flames in these areas.
In addition to labeling flammable materials and possible ignition sources, mines should label the components of fire suppression systems including fire extinguishers and hoses.
Electrical equipment can pose fire, shock, and arc flash hazards, and mines must label this equipment accordingly. Major electrical installations should have danger signs alerting employees to the hazard. These signs and labels should explain the hazard present and appropriate avoidance measures.
Mining operations often involve many moving people and vehicles. Clear traffic rules should exist to prevent collisions and signs can reinforce these rules. Signs can convey speed limit, highlight intersections, or mark the locations where it’s safe for pedestrians to walk.
If vehicles containing hazardous materials move through your mine, you should also mark them with signs indicating their contents.
Mines must follow the requirements for hazardous chemical labeling laid out in the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). This involves marking any hazardous chemical containers with labels that have the appropriate product identifiers, signal words, hazard statements, pictograms, precautionary statements, and supplier information. MSHA announced in 2013 that mines should comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) HCS, which includes updates from the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). Mines should make sure to consult MSHA and OSHA for details. You can see examples of labels with the required elements below.
Many locations in mines pose a hazard to people who enter them. Signs warning people to stay out of certain areas are important. MSHA points out that areas with high radon levels where work is no longer performed need appropriate signage. Other useful signs can point out an area has low clearance, has uneven walking surfaces, or has any other features that could pose a threat to workers.
In some situations, people might also be working a dangerous area, and their safety will depend on the choices of those around them. For example, MSHA requires that “Men Working in Shaft” signs be posted when a hoisting operation is performed to keep all parties involved safe.
Personal Protective Equipment
Working safely in a mine requires many types of personal protective equipment (PPE). Employees may need hard hats, steel-toed boots, gloves, respirators, eye protection, and more. Training about when and where to use PPE is necessary, but posting signs reminding people of where they should don their PPE can increase employee compliance, and consequently employee safety. Try posting a variety of signs and labels in the locations where people need PPE.
Pipe Markers & Valve Tags
When pipes run through mining worksites, they must be marked. These markings, which include the name of the pipe’s contents and the direction of the flow, quickly communicate to employees, maintenance workers, and emergency responders what those pipes contain. Pipe markers should follow the ANSI/ASME A13.1 standard for length, color, and text size.
In conjunction with pipe markings, any valves on your pipe system should be tagged with pertinent information about their contents, too.
Any workplace—not just mines—should have directional information and marked exit routes. These signs help people find their way during an emergency or during normal operations. These signs can play a critical role when the power goes out, especially if the signs are made from reflective or photoluminescent materials that can be seen in the dark or by the light of flashlights or headlamps.
Your mining operation will run more smoothly if people can easily find the information they need to do their jobs. Posting general facility information such as the location of restrooms, trash receptacles, and break rooms, as well as policies for smoking and cell phone use is good common sense. It also helps people go about their work without needing to ask too many questions.
Mines should also post a sign labeling the mine’s main office so employees and visitors can easily identify it and get their questions answered.
For the safety of the public, post signs around the periphery of a mining operation warning people not to enter without permission.
The world-renowned carmaker Toyota began studying supermarkets in the 1940s. Supermarkets have a unique in-store system that uses in-store stocking techniques. Their system always provides for adequate amounts of products on the shelves without having to store excess amounts because customers know they can always return to the store for more.
Toyota believed that this same process could be applied to the factory floor. The demand for the product guided the ordering of products and their placement on the shelves. In 1953, Toyota began using this system of kanban in the machine shop of their main plant. The company’s leaders knew that the demand for materials would need to be “pulled” by downstream employees, so they developed a system to facilitate that process.
Kanban is a Japanese term meaning “visual signal” or “card” and is built upon the concept that improving communication is done through visual management. A kanban system utilizes cards or other visual cues to trigger an action in the manufacturing process. By using kanban cards, Toyota employees were able to move materials smoothly through the production process.
Although there were other manufacturing giants at this time, Toyota took things one step further. Under the direction of Taichii Ohno, the company also recognized the importance of listening to ideas from all employees. Kanban was officially introduced to Toyota’s main plant machine shop in 1953. In addition, they worked on ways to use their systems for a variety of products or for multiple products at the same time.
Soon the successes of Toyota led to the kanban process being used all over Japan. Once the quality of the system was apparent, it began to be used all over the world. By the 1980s, popular American companies like General Electric were using the Toyota system, although calling it by many different names, with much success. Over time, concepts of kanban have evolved for different workplaces but they can all be traced back to The four core principles to kanban:
1. Visualize work 2. Limit work-in-process 3. Focus on flow 4. Continuous improvement
Today, kanban systems can be found in many Lean organizations and manufacturing warehouses. Some facilities choose a card system, others a bin system, and with technology advances there are even electronic kanban systems. Kanban works to level production and avoid the waste of overproduction while promoting JIT manufacturing and making the production process more flexible. Aligning inventory levels with actual customer demand can keep your production line running smoothly and efficiently while eliminating a number of wastes.