Process safety extends beyond the boundaries of a business and into the community at large. Its primary focus is on the dangers associated with industrial operations and the prevention of catastrophic catastrophes caused by events such as unintended release of hazardous chemicals, fires, gas leaks, explosions, or structural collapses. Process safety programs should be included in the workplace safety program for any facility that uses or stores hazardous chemicals.
There are four basic types of process accidents: equipment failures, operator errors, substance-related accidents, and accidental releases. Equipment failures include malfunctioning machines, such as an elevator that fails to stop at a desired floor. Operator errors include making a wrong decision about how to proceed with an operation; for example, operating an excavator without properly securing it to prevent it from moving. Substance-related accidents include incidents caused by the presence of substances in the environment that can cause harm if they are released in excess of acceptable levels. These substances include cleaning agents, lubricants, heat sources, and toxic materials used in manufacturing processes. Finally, there are accidental releases which include any incident in which a hazardous chemical is unintentionally discharged from its container.
Equipment failures and operator errors can be prevented through regular maintenance and supervision by trained personnel. Substance-related accidents can be reduced by following appropriate safety procedures when handling chemicals and by using safe storage practices. Accidental releases can be prevented by following good labeling practices and by not storing chemicals in areas accessible to children.
Process safety is a disciplined framework for managing the integrity of hazardous-substance-handling operational systems and processes. The emphasis on process safety and asset integrity in the oil and gas business is to prevent unplanned discharges that might result in a significant crisis. Process safety also includes planned shutdowns and maintenance procedures to keep equipment working as designed, with no adverse effects from exposure to substances in the material.
Process safety starts with risk assessment. An organization assesses its operations to determine which ones pose a risk if they fail. These are the areas that require special controls or protections. For example, if acid is used in a process, then the potential for an accident exists if someone were to make a mistake. The risk may be reduced by using specific procedures (protective clothing, work practices, etc.) or by not operating the process at all. Risk assessments help organizations identify problems before they cause harm.
Next, an organization should establish control standards for its processes. These should be consistent with local and federal regulations for the industry in which it operates. For example, an organization that stores chemicals used in its manufacturing operation must ensure that they are kept in a safe manner. If not, an accident could occur because someone might accidentally take a bottle home for their own use. The standard control for this situation would be to restrict access to these chemicals.
Process safety covers the avoidance of unintended releases of chemicals, energy, or other hazardous materials, whereas occupational safety is more broadly defined as traditional health and safety, which is typically linked with the prevention of trips, slips, and falls. Process safety and occupational safety are related but separate topics within the field of industrial hygiene.
Process safety starts with understanding the chemistry and physics of the substances that you use in your processes. This includes any chemical reagents you may use during manufacturing or processing, as well as any radioactive material or explosive devices. It also includes the physical aspects of your facilities (such as insulation requirements for pipes) as well as their environmental impact (for example, if you release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere). Finally, process safety involves the planning and implementation of measures to prevent accidents or injuries that could result from an unsafe condition.
Occupational safety is concerned with reducing the risk of injury or death at work sites through the application of engineering controls and administrative and personal protective equipment. These risks can be reduced by following good practices in job design and employment selection, providing adequate training programs for new hires, and conducting regular medical examinations for all employees. The term "occupational safety and health" refers to efforts to reduce occupational injuries and deaths. This includes both occupational safety and health services provided by employers to their workers, as well as government regulations that attempt to ensure worker safety.