The OSHA PSM Standard (29 CFR 1910.119) is a “performance” standard rather than a “prescriptive” standard. In other words, the standard doesn’t tell you exactly what to do, such as when to collect a sample or log temperature. Rather, the PSM Standard requires you to achieve a certain level of performance. Then it is up to you to figure out how to maintain performance at that level. MIOSHA has adopted these regulations in GI Part 91 and OH Part 591.
The PSM Standards consist of 14 “Elements.” These “elements” are broad categories of compliance, like “Training” and “Employee Participation", each having its own set of requirements and goals that you set and then meet.
“14 elements!,” you sigh and think, “how am I going to get all of this work done when there is only one of me!” Let’s begin to answer with this – start with OSHA’s guide for small businesses entitled, Process Safety Management for Small Businesses. A copy can be found here.
In this guide OSHA identifies Process Safety Information (PSI), Process Hazards Analysis (PHA), Training, Mechanical Integrity (MI), and Compliance Audits as the elements most relevant to hazards associated with small businesses. Although all 14 elements will eventually need to be completed, this is a good place to start your PSM Program development. Why do you think OSHA started with these elements? Well, because by doing them you will be successful at making a good product and preventing your employees and neighbors from exposure to a highly hazardous chemical.
Process Safety Information (PSI)
PSI includes a variety of information about your system, such as design and operating specifications for piping, vessels, valves and gauges. It includes drawings (P&IDs) showing the system layout, process flow and safety systems. This information will help your operators know when the system is operating in the sweet spot and when something is going wrong? The P&IDs will enable you to look up information about your system and see how its pieces and parts fit together and flow. Your maintenance team will be able to order and install the right equipment because they will know what design specifications they need for replacement parts. It is fairly straightforward. Your PSI and all the information about your system needs to be accurate and kept up to date because the rest of your PSM program is built around the PSI information.
Process Hazard Analysis
Why do you need a PHA? Why can’t I just copy the PHA from the plant down the road that is really similar to mine? Because one size does not fit all. Even though some systems are considered “Off-the-shelf,” your equipment numbering system will likely be different and your system probably won’t have exactly the same configuration for piping, valves and safety equipment. Each system is different, so you cannot just copy another PHA and call it your own. Besides, your team has to go through the exercise. The PHA is a great learning and exploratory opportunity and a great tool for identifying weaknesses, even in the best systems. And, believe me, by the end of the PHA your team will discover weaknesses and things they didn’t know about before the exercise started.
Effective preventative maintenance is one of the best ways to keep the highly hazard substance in your PSM regulated system and avoid deadly and costly accidents associated with worn valves, piping and gauges. This includes inspections of system components, exercising valves, ensuring gauges are working correctly and timely replacement of worn components. Training of the maintenance technicians keeps them safe and ensures replacements and repairs are done according to established codes and specifications.
Training is obvious, I think. Does a front desk receptionist need the same training as a maintenance technician? No. Staff and operations personnel need to be trained to the level of their involvement with the system. Everyone, at a minimum, needs to understand what their responsibilities are and what to do during normal operations and during emergencies. Office personnel need to know the dangers of the chemicals they are working near and what to do during an emergency.
If the suggested elements in the small business guidance document supposedly have something to do with the information about the system, why are compliance audits included in this list? Probably because an audit is a good place to figure out where you are in the whole process of developing a PSM Program. Or if you happen to have a mature program, an audit is a good way to have a fresh set of eyes review the program to identify opportunities for improvement or to check if the documents describe the activities actually implemented at your facility. Remember the old industry adage, Plan Do Check? This is the check part.
Another element I feel is important, but, is not in the OSHA guide as one of the five important elements mentioned earlier, is standard operating procedures (SOPs). This element, when done correctly, helps you make good product or refrigerate efficiently. If your procedures are wrong or ignored, it can result in employee injuries, equipment damage, raw material wastes and allot of wasted process time and money. On top of that, training of operators is critical, so they know how to keep the system in the sweet spot, how to recognize out-of-control conditions and then how to respond in a way that shuts the system down safely or brings it back under control. Oh, and they are a great training tool, too. So, you tell me if operating procedures are important or not.
It is a big job, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By now you realize you alone cannot develop and implement a PSM program. It takes a team of operators, mechanics, engineers, their managers and of course, you, the compliance professional to get it all done.
SRM’s PSM professionals have been helping clients with their PSM programs for 20 years. We can evaluate your program, prioritize your opportunities for improvement and help you ensure your PSM program is effective and compliant. Just give us a call and we’ll show you how!