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Audit Process Safety for Compliance and Performance

Process safety audits can provide an important feedback mechanism to help maintain compliance with regulations and improve process safety program performance.

In the U.S., compliance audits must be conducted every three years if a facility is covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) process safety management (PSM) standard and/or the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) risk management program (RMP). Therefore, most process safety audits are conducted to ensure compliance with these regulatory requirements. However, compliance does not necessarily translate to improved PSM performance.

A positive outcome of a PSM audit is not a guarantee that a serious process safety incident or other problems will not occur. Audits conducted solely for compliance may not evaluate all important aspects of an effective process safety program, and in some cases, may not include an assessment of significant process hazards because the processes where those hazards exist are not covered by the regulations. Regulatory compliance is required, of course, but ultimately the goal of effective process safety programs is performance — both to prevent serious incidents and injuries and to achieve other program goals.

This article discusses how PSM audits can be conducted to improve both compliance and performance, and the potential benefits of such an approach...

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