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This page contains previous items from our Latest News feature.

Primatech has published a white paper that describes a variety of PHA methods, provides procedures for using them, and presents a comparison of the methods.

Publish Date: 2017-07-28
Category: Primatech News

Primatech introduces its latest white paper available now from this website. The white paper describes various PHA methods and lists the different procedures involved for conducting those methods. A comparison of the PHA methods is also presented.

You may view the white paper by clicking on its title:

Comparison of Process Hazard Analysis (PHA) Methods

New Process Safety Regulation Approved in California

Publish Date: 2017-05-26
Category: Industry News

On May 18, 2017, a new refinery safety rule for oil refineries was approved by the State of California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. Section 5189.1 has been added to Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations, which is enforced by Cal/OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) Unit.

Some elements contained in the regulation require refinery employers to:

  • Conduct Damage Mechanism Reviews for processes that result in equipment or material degradation
  • Conduct a Hierarchy of Hazard Controls Analysis to encourage refinery management to implement the most effective safety measures when correcting hazards.
  • Implement a Human Factors Program to analyze human factors such as staffing levels, training and competency, fatigue and other effects of shift work, and the human-machine interface.
  • Develop, implement and maintain written procedures for the Management of Organizational Change to ensure that plant safety remains consistent during personnel changes.
  • Utilize Root Cause Analysis when investigating any incident that could have resulted in a major incident.
  • Perform and document a Process Hazard Analysis of the effectiveness of safeguards that apply to particular processes.
  • Implement and maintain a Process Safety Culture Assessment program to understand the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety.

The new rule is part of a package of complementary regulations intended to make California refineries safer. The companion regulation strengthens the California Accidental Release Prevention (CalARP) program that helps to prevent the accidental release of hazardous substances harmful to public health and the environment. A revised CalARP regulation will also be submitted for approval in the weeks ahead.


Rulemaking Documents for Process Safety Management for Petroleum Refineries – State of California DIR’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB)

CSB Issues Final Report on 2015 ExxonMobil Refinery Explosion

Publish Date: 2017-05-09
Category: Industry News

On May 3, 2017, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) issued its final report on the explosion that occurred at the ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance, California, on February 18, 2015. The blast caused serious property damage to the refinery and scattered catalyst dust into the nearby community. Four contract employees sought first aid for injuries sustained while fleeing the area. The incident caused the refinery to be run at limited capacity for over a year causing gasoline prices to rise in California. The CSB investigation also discovered that a large piece of debris from the explosion narrowly missed hitting a tank containing tens of thousands of pounds of modified hydrofluoric acid which is highly toxic.

The explosion occurred in the refinery’s fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit. The CSB determined that on the day of the incident a slide valve that acted as a barrier between the hydrocarbon side and air side of the FCC unit failed and ultimately allowed hydrocarbons to flow into the air side of the FCC where they ignited in the electrostatic precipitator causing the explosion.

The CSB investigation found:

  • Multiple gaps in the refinery’s process safety management (PSM) system which allowed for operation of the FCC unit without proper procedures, pre-established safe operating limits, and criteria for shut down.
  • The refinery relied on safeguards that could not be verified and reuse of a previous procedure variance without a sufficient hazard analysis.
  • The slide valve was degraded significantly. This safety-critical safeguard did not work as intended when needed during an emergency and hydrocarbons were able to reach an ignition source.
  • In multiple instances leading up to the incident, the refinery directly violated ExxonMobil’s corporate safety standards. For example, during work leading up to the incident, workers violated corporate lock-out / tag-out requirements.

The CSB concluded that a more robust PSM system should have been in place.


Read the CSB news release.
Read the CSB report.
View the CSB animation of the explosion.

Primatech completes a dust hazard analysis project

Publish Date: 2017-04-28
Category: Primatech News

Primatech recently facilitated a Dust Hazard Analysis (DHA) study for a power generation client. The project supported the client’s program to comply with NFPA standards 652 and 654. The study team identified recommendations for improvements to enhance safety and mitigate potential dust hazards. For more on Primatech’s DHA-related consulting services, please click here.

Primatech to Exhibit at the 30th Annual Environmental, Health and Safety Seminar

Publish Date: 2017-04-25
Category: Primatech News

Primatech will be exhibiting at the 30th Annual Environmental, Health & Safety Seminar, June 5-8, 2017 in Galveston, Texas. Please be sure to stop by our booth at the Moody Gardens convention center.

Shawn Metzler from Primatech will be available to discuss how Primatech's consulting, training, and software can assist in meeting your organization's process safety objectives.

Be sure to drop off your business card at Primatech's booth for a chance to win a Bose SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth Wireless Speaker!

EPA Further Delays the Effective Date of the RMP Rule Amendments

Publish Date: 2017-04-24
Category: Industry News

On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a proposed rule to further delay the effective date of the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule amendments for 20 months until February 19, 2019. This action is intended to allow EPA to consider several petitions for reconsideration of the RMP rule amendments and take further regulatory action. EPA held a public hearing regarding the proposed effective date on April 19, 2017. Written comments must be received by May 19, 2017.

For further information, see:

Final Amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) Rule

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors article on process safety incidents, cognitive biases, and critical thinking

Publish Date: 2017-04-24
Category: Primatech News

The article was published in Hydrocarbon Processing, Vol. 96, No. 4, pages 81 - 82, April 2017.


Process hazard analysis (PHA) is a key tool for identifying hazard scenarios for processes to help prevent process safety incidents. PHA poses numerous technical challenges but also it depends on decisions made by practitioners during the performance of studies. Human decision making is influenced by many cognitive factors that may bias decisions. This article describes how cognitive biases may have influenced decisions made during a reactive hazard assessment where a process safety incident occurred subsequently.

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors article on the need for creative thinking in process safety

Publish Date: 2017-04-13
Category: Primatech News

The article was published in Chemical and Engineering Progress, pages 56 - 60, Vol. 113, No. 4, April, 2017.


Creative thinking is needed when addressing many process safety elements. It is essential in process hazard analysis studies where people brainstorm what can go wrong. Also, it is important for other elements such as incident investigation, procedure writing, management of change reviews, and developing emergency response plans.

Formal education usually discourages creative thinking and most people don’t need to be creative for much of what they do in daily life. Consequently, the ability to think creatively is not common. However, creative thinking is a skill that can be learnt and guidance can be provided for ways in which creative thinking can be approached by anyone when the need arises. This article provides guidelines for creative thinking that can be used to address the challenges of process safety.

Environmentalists act in support of EPA RMP rule amendments

Publish Date: 2017-04-13
Category: Industry News

The Union of Concerned Scientists, Sierra Club and Earthjustice plan to jointly file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by industry organizations in March that asks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to delay or reconsider amendments to the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule. The industry organizations include the American Chemistry Council, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute.

Primatech's Dr. Paul Baybutt authors paper on overcoming challenges in using LOPA to determine SILs

Publish Date: 2017-04-10
Category: Primatech News

The paper was published in the Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, Volume 48, pages 32 – 40, July 2017.


The international standard on safety instrumented systems (SISs), IEC 61511 / ISA 84, requires the determination of safety integrity levels (SILs) for safety instrumented functions (SIFs) in SISs. Arguably, this is the most important requirement in the standard. Various methods are used for SIL determination including risk matrices and risk graphs, although layers of protection analysis (LOPA) is used increasingly. In employing these methods, a determination must be made as to whether existing risk levels for a process are tolerable by comparing risk estimates with risk tolerance criteria. If a risk gap is found, the SIL required to close the gap is specified. This determination requires setting risk tolerance criteria and making risk estimates.

LOPA is used to calculate the risk of individual hazard scenarios. Consequently, in order to simplify the determination of SILs using LOPA, overall risk tolerance criteria often are allocated to individual hazard scenarios so that risk estimates for scenarios can be compared with the allocated criteria. Sometimes hazardous events are used and the risks of scenarios that involve the same hazardous event are aggregated. Unfortunately, allocation of facility risk tolerance criteria to scenarios or events is fraught with difficulties and use of LOPA with allocated risk tolerance criteria can produce inaccurate results within a facility and inconsistent results across facilities.

A procedure is provided in this paper for SIL determination using LOPA in which facility risk tolerance criteria are used meaningfully and justifiably. The procedure entails the calculation of overall facility risk and an examination of contributions to the risks to individuals and groups of people from sources of risk such as different types of hazards, different modes of process operation, and different units and processes. The procedure is illustrated with an example.

The article can be accessed for free on ScienceDirect until May 28, 2017 by clicking on the link below. No sign up or registration is needed.