HealthESGApril 30, 2019

Process safety management: what you need to know

Each workplace has its own unique set of hazards. But some face greater risks and challenges than others. For example, many companies face the risk of unexpected releases of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases from processes that involve highly hazardous chemicals.

Because of the potentially disastrous consequences of these risks, OSHA issued the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard.

What is Process Safety Management?

Process Safety Management, or PSM, is an OSHA standard that requires employers to identify, evaluate, and control the hazards associated with the highly hazardous chemicals used in their processes.

A key provision of the standard requires employers to conduct a thorough risk analysis of the entire operating process. This assessment is known as a PHA, or process hazard analysis.

The PHA is just one component of an effective process safety management program. OSHA requires PSM programs to contain the following 14 key elements:

  • Process Safety Information
    Employers must develop written safety information before conducting a PHA.
  • Process Hazard Analysis
    Employers must identify, evaluate, and control hazardous processes.
  • Operating Procedures
    Employers must develop and implement written operating procedures.
  • Incident Investigation
    Thorough investigations must be completed anytime there is an incident associated to the process.
  • Management of Change
    Changes to a process must be evaluated to determine if there will be any impacts on the health and safety of employees.
  • Mechanical Integrity
    Process equipment must be designed and installed correctly.
  • Employee Participation
    The employer must involve workers in PSM programs.
  • Trade Secrets
    Employers must provide all information necessary to comply with PSM standards, regardless of the trade secret status of the information.
  • Compliance Audits
    Audits must be conducted and reported at reasonable intervals.
  • Training
    Employers must train employees on hazards and procedures.
  • Contractors
    All contractors working on or near highly hazardous chemicals must be trained on emergency procedures and other relevant aspects of the PSM program.
  • Hot Work
    Hot work permits must be issued for any hot work operations taking place near the process.
  • Pre-Startup Safety Review
    The PSSR must be conducted for new and modified facilities before operations can begin.
  • Emergency Planning and Response
    Employees must be trained on emergency planning and response procedures.

OSHA inspectors will look for these 14 elements when reviewing your PSM program. Together, they help to reduce the likelihood and severity of an unwanted release or exposure.

As you can see, process safety management can be a huge undertaking. The PHA alone can be a tedious and time-consuming process. However, it’s absolutely essential and must be implemented at facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals.

How to Implement PSM at Your Workplace

OSHA doesn’t regulate how you implement PSM programs at your workplace. They just need you to have one that meets the 14 requirements listed above.

Some companies will do it the old-fashioned way. They’ll manually enter the data into spreadsheets or will fill out forms that were drawn up in-house. Although this can seem like an economical approach, it’s very time-consuming, and is prone to human error.

Others hire consultants and PSM professionals to come on-site as needed. But this can be expensive, especially if you have multiple processes that need evaluation.

Instead, you may want to consider PSM software that does most of the work for you. Software systems can streamline the process, ensure compliance, and help you identify and mitigate risks.

Enablon’s PSM software solution leverages a single, unique platform that addresses the 14 elements of OSHA-compliant process safety management programs.

Download the Verdantix Process Safety Management Software Benchmark to learn more about the 17 most prominent software vendors offering process safety management functionality:


Learn about the value of a digital Process Safety Management framework, including digital PHAs & MOCs


Implement a Process Safety Management framework, and identify, evaluate and control hazards associated to processes using hazardous chemicals

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