During a session I was instructing on risk-based process safety, one of the company process safety leaders presented a simple process safety model: If you design it right, operate it correctly, and maintain it properly, the process should operate safely. My initial thought was disbelief. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) process safety management (PSM) program has 14 elements and CCPS’s risk-based process safety guidelines include 20 elements. How can you reduce either of those to three simple ideas? Although it may seem mindboggling, on closer inspection, I found it is correct. This three-legged stool model of PSM becomes more obvious as you examine each leg.
Design it right. At the design stage, the process should be developed based on well-defined chemistry that employs the principles of inherently safer design to avoid the need to handle extremely hazardous materials, especially after scale-up. The chemistry that is developed in the laboratory or pilot plant to ensure commercial viability must be documented so it can serve as functional process knowledge. Even laboratory or pilot plant failures are valuable because they provide boundaries and warnings to inform future reviews and potential changes. Process and design engineers...
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