Many facilities need to develop a comprehensive process safety management program, and OSHA has focused its efforts on this standard in recent years. PSM is an important safety standard regarding highly hazardous chemicals and the proper handling of them. In addition to keeping workers safe, PSM aims to prevent potential disasters by reducing the risk of accidental release of flammable, toxic, or reactive chemicals into the environment.
A 2013 Executive Order (EO 13650 “Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security”) also asked government agencies such as OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency to make PSM (and other related chemical safety standards) a priority and examine how chemical accidents could better be prevented. This Order was prompted by recent chemical accidents such as the explosion that killed 15 people at a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, in 2013.
Companies that use, store, manufacture, handle, or move a highly hazardous chemical (as defined by OSHA and the EPA) will need to adhere to the PSM regulations. Industries that commonly use PSM include:
- Chemical manufacturing
- Fabricated metals
- Paint, adhesives, and sealants
- Paper mills
- Food processing
Those who will need to follow PSM regulations will need to implement a process safety management program. These programs are comprised of the following fourteen elements as specified by OSHA:
- Pre-startup Review
- Mechanical Integrity
- Hot Work Permit
- Management of Change
- Incident Investigation
- Emergency Planning & Response
- Compliance Audits
- Trade Secrets
- Employee Participation
- Process Safety Information
- Process Hazard Analysis
- Operating Procedures
However, OSHA acknowledges a few situations or industries that would exempt a company from the PSM requirements. This includes retail facilities, remote facilities that are normally unoccupied, and oil or gas well drilling or servicing operations.
Whether a business needs to comply with the PSM standard can also depend on the quantity of a chemical present in the workplace. For example, if a food processing facility uses anhydrous ammonia for ammonia refrigeration and it has more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia on site, the facility would need to follow PSM. Be sure to consult regulations to ensure your workplace is in compliance.