Process Safety Management (PSM):


Process safety management is an analytical tool focused on preventing releases of any substance defined as a “highly hazardous chemicals” by the EPA or OSHA.Process Safety Management (PSM) refers to a set of inter-related approaches to manage hazards associated with the process industries and is intended to reduce the frequency and severity of incidents resulting from releases of chemicals and other energy sources (US OSHA 1993). These standards are composed of organizational and operational procedures, design guidance, audit programs, and a host of other methods.

Process safety management is a regulation, promulgated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A process is any activity or combination of activities including any use, storage, manufacturing, handling or the on-site movement of highly hazardous chemicals (HHCs) as defined by OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Why Did OSHA Develop PSM:

Process Safety Management is intended to prevent an incidents like the 1984 Bhopal Disaster

And…to Prevent Release of:

  • Toxic,
  • Reactive,
  • Flammable, or
  • Explosive chemicals.

What is Process Safety:

Occupational Safety:

Protecting against personal injuries,

Slips, trips, falls, falling from height, chemical contact

Process Safety:

Protecting against catastrophic incidents.

Fires, explosions, toxic releases resulting in significant loss of life, property or environmental impact.

Why We Have Process Safety Management

Unexpected releases of toxic, reactive, or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals have been reported for many years. Incidents continue to occur in various industries that use highly hazardous chemicals which may be toxic, reactive, flammable,

or explosive, or may exhibit a combination of these properties.

Regardless of the industry that uses these highly hazardous chemicals, there is a potential for an accidental release any time they are not properly controlled. This, in turn, creates the possibility of disaster.

Recent major disasters include:

  • The 1984 Bhopal, India, incident resulting in more than 2,800 deaths.


14 Elements of OSHA Process Safety Management Program (PSM)

  • Process Safety Information
  • Process Hazard Analysis
  • Operating Procedures
  • Training
  • Contractors
  • Mechanical Integrity
  • Hot Work
  • Management of Change
  • Incident Investigation
  • Compliance Audits
  • Trade Secrets
  • Employee Participation
  • Pre-startup Safety Review
  • Emergency Planning and Response

All of those elements mentioned above are interlinked and interdependent. There is a tremendous interdependency of the various elements of PSM. All elements are related and are necessary to make up the entire PSM picture. Every element either contributes information to other elements for the completion or utilizes information from other elements in order to be completed.

How the PSM Standard Applies


The final PSM standard mainly applies to manufacturing industries—particularly, those pertaining to chemicals, transportation equipment, and fabricated metal products. Other affected sectors include natural gas liquids; farm product warehousing; electric, gas, and sanitary services; and wholesale trade. It also applies to pyrotechnics and explosives manufacturers covered under other OSHA rules and has special provisions for contractors working in covered facilities.

The various lines of defense incorporated into the design and operation of the PSM process should be evaluated and strengthened to make sure they are effective at each level. Process safety management is the proactive identification, evaluation and mitigation or prevention of chemical releases that could occur as a result of failures in processes, procedures, or equipment.

Example of an oil refinery Delayed Coking Process.

What is a “process”?

To understand PSM and its requirements, employers and employees need to understand how OSHA uses the term

“process” in PSM.

  1. Any group of vessels which are interconnected, and
  1. Separate vessels which are located such that a highly hazardous chemical could be involved in a potential release

For purposes of this definition, any group of vessels that are interconnected, and separate vessels located in a way that could involve a highly hazardous chemical in a potential release, are considered a single process.

What industries does PSM target?

The process safety management standard targets highly hazardous chemicals that have the potential to cause a catastrophic incident.

OSHA’s standard applies mainly to manufacturing industries–particularly those pertaining to chemicals, transportation equipment, and fabricated metal products. Other affected sectors include those involved with:

  • natural gas liquids
  • farm product warehousing
  • food processing
  • electric, gas, and sanitary services
  • wholesale trade
  • pyrotechnics and explosives manufacturers

It has special provisions for contractors working in covered facilities.

What does the employer need to develop?

To control these types of hazards, employers need to develop the necessary expertise, experience, judgment, and initiative within their work force to properly implement and maintain an effective process safety management program as envisioned in the OSHA PSM standard.

What is the impact of the PSM?

OSHA believes that the PSM requirements has a definite positive effect on the safety of employees and offers other potential benefits to employers, such as increased productivity.

What can employers do to reduce risk?

Employers, including small employers, may establish more efficient inventory control by reducing, to below the established threshold, the quantities of highly hazardous chemicals onsite. This reduction can be accomplished by ordering smaller shipments and maintaining the minimum inventory necessary for efficient and safe operation.

When reduced inventory is not feasible, the employer might consider dispersing inventory to several locations onsite. Dispersing storage into locations so that a release in one location will not cause a release in another location is also a practical way to reduce the risk or potential for catastrophic incidents.

The Future of PSM

In December 2014, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) formally announced that to “Modernize U.S. Process Safety Management Regulations” is the Board’s newest Most Wanted Safety Improvement, concluding that implementation of key federal and state CSB safety recommendations will result in significant improvement of Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations in the United States