An Introduction to the Process Safety Management Standard (psm)

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Table of Contents

About WEC 2

Preventing Chemical Accidents 3

The Small Group Activity Method 4

The Factsheet Reading Method 6

An Introduction to OSHA’s

Process Safety Management Standard (PSM) 8

Task 1 – Lessons Learned 9

Task 2 – Why do we need a PSM Standard? 11

Task 3 – Basic Elements of the PSM Standard 21

Evaluation 64

About WEC
The New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) is a non-profit collaboration of organizations working for safe, secure jobs, and a healthy, sustainable environment.
Visit WEC’s website at
For more information about WEC programs and services, contact:

Rick Engler, Director

New Jersey Work Environment Council

142 West State Street - Third Floor, Trenton, NJ 08608-1102

Telephone: (609) 695-7100

Fax: (609) 695-4200


Preventing Chemical Accidents
Unexpected releases of highly hazardous toxic, reactive, or flammable chemicals create the possibility of a disaster for workers, employers, and communities.
OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard helps prevent accidental releases of highly hazardous chemicals, thus protecting employees, as well as plant neighbors.
Effective worker training about PSM helps achieve safer, healthier, and more productive workplaces.
In New Jersey, PSM regulates approximately 100 facilities, including certain chemical plants, oil refineries, food processors, electric utilities, warehouses, and public and private sector water and sewage treatment operations. PSM may also cover other types of facilities. PSM has special provisions for contractors working in covered facilities.
WEC’s training curriculum covers key aspects of the PSM standard. Training introduces the concept of systems of safety and accident prevention and why facilities should establish an organizational structure to oversee PSM implementation. We address OSHA’s performance-based requirements for a plant “mechanical integrity” program. Training also covers accident, incident, and near-miss investigations, focusing on root causes. We also can provide training on related subjects, such as the New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA), employer and worker/union rights to participate during OSHA and TCPA inspections, and development of effective labor-management safety and health committees.
For more information, contact:

Denise Patel, PSM Outreach Coordinator

WEC, 142 West State St, Third Floor

Trenton, NJ 08608

Call: (609) 695-7100, Extension 305

Fax: (609) 695-4200


The Small Group Activity Method
Basic Structure

The Small Group Activity Method* is based on a series of problem-solving activities. An activity can take from 45 minutes to an hour. Each activity has a common basic structure:

Small Group Tasks


1. Small Group Tasks: The training always begins with groups working together at their tables. Each activity has a task, or set of tasks, for the groups to work on. The task asks that the groups use their experience and the factsheets to solve problems and make judgements on key issues.
2. Report-Back: For each task, the group selects a scribe that takes notes on the small group discussion and reports back to the class as a whole. During the report-back, the scribe informs the entire class as to how his or her group solved the particular problem. The trainer records each scribe’s report-back on large pads of paper in front of the class so that everyone can refer to them.
3. Summary: Before the discussion drifts too far, the trainer needs to bring it all together during the summary. Here, the trainer highlights the key points of the activity and brings up any problems or points that may have been overlooked during the report-back.

*The Small Group Activity Method (SGAM) is based on a training procedure developed by England’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) in the 1970s. The Labor Institute and Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union (now part of the United Steelworkers) used a similar method around economic and health and safety issues for workers and further developed the procedure into SGAM. The New Jersey Work Environment Council has used SGAM since 1986.

Three Basic Learning Exchanges

The Small Group Activity Method (SGAM) is based on the idea that every training is a place where learning is shared. With SGAM, learning is not a one-way street that runs from trainer to worker. Rather SGAM is a structured procedure that allows us to share information. It is based on three learning exchanges:



Worker-to-Worker: Most of us learn best from each other. SGAM is set up in such a way as to make the worker-to-worker exchange a key element of the training. The worker-to-worker exchange allows participants to learn from each other by solving problems in their small groups.
Worker-to-Trainer: Lecture-style training assumes that the trainer knows all the answers. With SGAM it is understood that the trainers also have a lot to learn and this is the purpose of the worker-to-trainer exchange. It occurs during the report-back and it is designed to give the trainer an opportunity to learn from the participants.
Trainer-to-Worker: This is the trainer’s opportunity to clear up any confusion and make points they think are key. By waiting until the summary section, trainers know better what people need to know.

The Factsheet Reading Method

The process described below focuses everyone on the important information in the factsheets.

The process is as follows:

First, select a scribe for this Task.

Each of you will be assigned a small number of factsheets to read. You will then share the factsheet information with your table.

Your trainer will assign your individual factsheets this way:

Starting with the scribe and moving to the left, count out loud from 1 to 8. Keep going around the table until all numbers (factsheets) are distributed. The assigned numbers correspond to Factsheets 1 through 8 on the following pages.

Once everyone has read their assigned factsheets individually, your scribe will go around the table and ask each of you to explain to the group what you have learned. Factsheets should be explained in the order assigned (1 through 8), since the factsheets build on the previous one. In this way, we all start at the same place and with the same information.

An Introduction to OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard (PSM)


1) To begin to apply the lessons of disasters involving highly hazardous chemicals to our own facilities.

2) To become acquainted with basic elements of the Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard and to understand why OSHA issued this standard.

This activity has three tasks.

Task 1

Scenario: A Deadly Explosion

On March 23, 2005 an explosion at the BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas killed 15 workers and injured 180. It was the worst industrial disaster in the U.S. outside of mining in a quarter century. Financial losses exceeded $1.5 billion. OSHA issued the largest citation and penalty in its history.

A two year investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, an independent federal agency, found that the accident resulted from “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation.” Specific factors included poorly designed and maintained alarms and instrumentation, use of outmoded blowdown drums and atmospheric stacks to vent flammable liquids and vapors, unsafe siting of temporary trailers leading to the presence of nonessential personnel in dangerous areas during critical operations, poor internal communications, inadequate training, fatigue from excess overtime, and outdated and ineffective procedures for critical operations such as unit startups.

Source: U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), Investigation Report: Refinery Explosion and Fire (15 Killed, 180 Injured), BP, Texas City, Texas, March 23, 2005, Washington, DC, 2007.

Task 1

Pick a scribe to report back the group’s response and working together, circle the conditions that exist at your facility.

  1. Inadequately designed and maintained instrumentation and alarms;

  2. Atmospheric venting of flammable liquids and vapors,
    without flaring;

  3. Trailers and other temporary structures sited too close to

process units;

  1. Nonessential personnel in potentially dangerous areas during critical operations like startups;

  2. Inadequate internal communications;

  3. Inadequate training;

  4. Fatigue from excess overtime;

  5. Outmoded and ineffective procedures for critical operations;

  6. Inadequate analysis of the potential for an accident in every aspect of the process.

List examples of those things you checked on the lines below:

1) ______________________________________________________

2) ______________________________________________________

3) ______________________________________________________

4) ______________________________________________________

5) ______________________________________________________

After looking at these conditions, is it possible an accident like the one in Texas City could ever happen in your facility?
Yes No
Please explain:

Task 2 – Why Do We Need a PSM Standard?


I came to work here almost 15 years ago. This was a good job with good pay and benefits. I’ve seen a lot of change, some for the better, some worse. I just heard a supervisor talking about new challenges for our plant from OSHA enforcement of the Process Safety Management Standard.

He said there is really no need for more government regulation or enforcement, that this will just hurt our industry. He questioned the PSM Standard, asking why it was so important and why – years after it was issued – OSHA is increasing its attention to PSM.

I think the PSM Standard was a good change for our industry, but I’d like some facts to back that up.

In your groups, pick a scribe, then read factsheets 1-7 on pages 12-18. Using the factsheets and your own experience, make a list of reasons that explain to this worker why we need the Process Safety Management Standard. Use the factsheets to support your answers.






Factsheet #1

New Technology Can Give Rise to New Hazards

Some experts believe that oil refineries and some chemical plants are increasingly likely to have catastrophic accidents because:

• Facility processes are tied together and have many complex interactive parts.

• Some facilities are getting bigger and sometimes more crowded.

• New chemicals are being used without their risks being fully addressed.

• Computerization of processes has resulted in many point-of-production problems being controlled by microprocessors in the field, with only high-level functions being fed back to the central control room. This makes it more difficult for operators to understand the process as a whole system and may make it harder to intervene when unexpected things happen.

Source: Perrow, Normal Accidents: Living with High Risk Technologies, New York: Basic Books, 1984, pp. 101-102 and 121-122.

Factsheet #2

Disasters on the Rise

A report published in 2003 by an industry consulting firm gives us an idea of the magnitude of the largest petroleum industry accidents and their causes. The 100 largest on-shore losses, in terms of damage to property, over the period 1972 – 2001, total $10.8 billion. The first table below gives a five-year snapshot (1987-1991) of the number of accidents which resulted in losses over $10 million. The second chart shows the total dollar amount of damages, adjusted for inflation, for accidents over $10 million for the period 1987 through 1991.

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