GHS Blog Post

What is Process Safety Management?

Process Safety Management

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:

  • Employee Participation
  • Process Safety Information
  • Process Hazard Analysis
  • Operating Procedures
  • Training
  • Contractors
  • Pre-startup Review
  • Mechanical Integrity
  • Hot Work Permit
  • Management of Change
  • Incident Investigation
  • Emergency Planning & Response
  • Compliance Audits
  • Trade Secrets

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
  • Maintenance activities
  • 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.


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