This informal CPD article ‘A Guide to Preventing Process Safety Incidents’, was provided by Synergen Oil and Gas UK, an independent engineering consultancy specialising in Process Safety, Technical Risk Management and Operational Safety services.
Process safety incidents (PSIs) are a significant factor in the chemical and petrochemical industries' fatalities, injuries, and property damage. PSIs occur during various operational phases, including startup, shutdown, process upsets and malfunctions, maintenance activities, product transfer and handling, and emergency response. In this article, let’s explore how to prevent process safety incidents.
Understanding Process Safety Incidents
Process safety incidents are unplanned events that can release hazardous materials outside the intended operational boundaries. They differ from accidents, which have the potential for injury or death. A PSI encompasses events that result in death or serious physical injury, significant release of a regulated substance, or substantial property damage.
Causes of Process Safety Incidents
The most frequent causes of process safety incidents include human error, equipment malfunction, and failure to follow proper procedures. Here is a revised list:
- Insufficient management commitment to process safety
- Inadequate employee training in process safety
- Lack of comprehensive process hazard analysis
- Inadequate design and operation of equipment or systems
- Poor maintenance practices
- Mismanagement of safety hazards
- Limited knowledge and experience in handling hazardous materials
- Inadequate tools and resources
- Human error
Preventing Process Safety Incidents
Implementing risk assessment and management measures, maintenance of safety systems and equipment, and employee training and education can help reduce process safety incidents.
1. Risk Assessment and Management
Risk assessment and management involve identifying, evaluating, and controlling risks associated with process hazards. By analysing the likelihood and severity of potential incidents, organizations can implement appropriate risk mitigation measures. This includes hazard analysis, safety procedure development, adherence to industry standards and regulations, and regular updating of risk assessments.
2. Maintenance of Safety Systems and Equipment
Regularly maintaining safety systems and equipment is critical in preventing process safety incidents. By detecting and addressing equipment failures, organisations can prevent serious accidents. This involves conducting inspections, calibrating, and testing emergency equipment such as alarms and relief valves.
3. Training and Education for Employees
Proper training and education for employees are essential in preventing process safety incidents. Employees handling hazardous materials or operating complex processes should receive training on potential hazards, mitigation strategies, and emergency response. Regular refresher courses and training sessions on safe operating procedures, hazard communication, and equipment monitoring can help prevent accidents.