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The Importance of Process Safety Management

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | May 18, 2015 | Comments Off on The Importance of Process Safety Management

Process Safety Management

Has it really been a decade since the Texas City Refinery explosion? This year marks 10 years since the deadly explosion took place, leaving in its wake the opportunity to analyze and redefine the standard procedure of the safety management program. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking this information and utilizing it for risk management scenarios at work, such as the oil refinery in Texas. While a defeating moment involving hazardous chemicals in the workplace, the Texas City Refinery disaster offers safety management teams a chance to restructure their own safety protocols.

Background of the Refinery

March 23, 2015, marks the 10-year anniversary of the deadly explosion—a day that injured almost 200 and killed 15 workers. The blast was a result of a vapor cloud that ignited and erupted when it collided with liquid hydrocarbons. The refinery had been built way back in 1934, but maintenance was lax and, in some respects, nonexistent. As a result, safety issues were determined to be the main reason why the vapor cloud leaked into contact with liquid hydrocarbons.

The Exploding Safety Issue

According to consultants at Telos, who were hired to determine the source of the explosion, several safety issues were to blame. These include falling concrete from the building (in massive blocks), broken alarms, and pipes thinned beyond safe use. Employees were subject to fumes that would overcome them, as well as bolts falling from 60 feet above their heads. It was a disaster waiting to happen, unfortunately. Other concerns stemming from the lack of safety management included the usage of obsolete equipment. Individuals in charge of the process safety management program also allowed employees to ignore warning signs that something was amiss.

Learning Lessons

It is unfortunate that such a major disaster had to take place before changes were made at the Texas City Refinery. However, this is a prime example of what happens when a safety management program is not effective in managing occupational risks. As a result of this devastating workplace incident, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has called for an overhaul of the process safety management protocol. Highlights of the changes include more effective safeguards to be used for the control of hazardous chemicals. It has also been noted that the Process Safety Management Standard set forth by OSHA is older than 20 years. As a result, the CSB is in the process of revising this standard.

The Importance of a Safety Management Program

Every workplace presents its own challenges and safety concerns. However, it is up to the employers and employees alike to handle risk mitigation efforts at work. This process starts at the top, with the provision of a safety management program that covers the risks associated with hazardous chemicals.

Once you have a program in place, it is up to management to educate and train the workers using proper safety procedures. This training is best when conducted by a professional who is skilled in working with safety protocols set forth by OSHA. Having a workplace that features a professionally managed safety program gives workers the ability to do their job safely and effectively.

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