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PT Notes

Process Safety Incidents and Standards for Process Safety Elements

PT Notes is a series of topical technical notes on process safety provided periodically by Primatech for your benefit. Please feel free to provide feedback.

A recent analysis of 68 incidents investigated by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) identified lack of standards for process safety elements as a key contributor to incident causation. Process safety programs comprise multiple elements such as employee participation, process safety information, process hazard analysis, etc. For example, OSHA’s PSM standard has 14 elements and CCPS’s RBPS program has 20 elements. However, it is possible for companies to address each of these elements in widely varying ways because their requirements are general in nature and do not address the effectiveness of their contribution to risk reduction. A solution to this problem is to establish minimum performance standards for each element. These standards should be established by an international organization such as ISO so they apply around the world. There is precedent for such standards in the IEC 61511 standard for safety instrumented systems and the IEC 61882 standard for hazard and operability (HAZOP) studies. These standards are still performance-based in nature, as should be new standards for other process safety elements.

One benefit of standards for process safety elements is that they can be updated more easily than regulations. Current US process safety regulations are static and unable to adapt to innovation and advances in the management of major hazard risks. Continuous improvement is an essential element of a management system for any surety such as quality, environmental protection, and occupational health and safety, and is part of CCPS’s RBPS program.

This topic is addressed in the article:

Insights into process safety incidents from an analysis of CSB investigations, Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industries, Volume 43, pages 537–548, September, 2016.

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