The safety of highly hazardous processes has been dramatically affected by the implementation of process safety management principals. Implementation of process safety standards by OSHA and EPA, as well as preceding state standards, have helped to apply rigorous management principals to control hazards for processes that use large quantities of flammable or toxic substances. However, the concepts of process safety can, and should be, more broadly applied to manufacturing processes, which may not be subject to strict regulatory requirements, to minimize the potential for catastrophic incidents. Recent examples of incidents that could have been prevented through the implementation of process safety elements include the CAI/Arnel explosion in 2006 and the Kleen Energy explosion in 2010. These incidents reflect the common threads of any significant incident: lack of hazard awareness, lack of adequate process controls, and the inability to recognize the potential for multiple infrequent events to cause a catastrophic loss.

Safety professionals have a number of formal tools at their disposal to help identify and communicate hazards; some more involved than others. One of the most involved and comprehensive tools is the Process Hazard Analysis (PHA). The process hazard analysis is an element of process safety, used to dissect and identify elements of process hazards incorporating both the engineering (structural) and human factors (operational) elements that can have both a positive or negative impact on the overall safety of the process. Facilities covered by OSHA Process Safety Management are required to conduct PHAs every five years, or more frequently in situations where the process changes. PHAs are conducted during process changes to analyze the consequences of these changes and verify that the changes do not impact the overall safety of the system.

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