How Does Chemical Process Safety Management Help Your Company Avoid Serious Violations?

chemical process safety management
What chemical safety process management strategies can companies adopt to avoid citations from government agencies?
Image source: Flickr CC user Michael Coghlan

In what has become a familiar refrain, yet another laboratory has been cited by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) for major safety violations. This time around, the citations pertain to several issues including ones related to hazard communication, process safety information, process hazard analysis, contractor safety and written operating procedures. I suppose there’s a reason hazard communication always ranks high on the agency’s list of industry violations every year. On the other hand, given how it’s become such a mainstay of the top 10 violations list, it’s not unreasonable to think companies would take note and find ways to minimize its occurrence at their own facilities.

This latest incident involves a New Jersey firm that produces compounds for the fragrance, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries. The facility houses approximately 10,000 pounds of ethyl chloride, a highly flammable liquid gas.1 The previously mentioned violations increased the risk of safety lapses that could lead to any number of unwanted disasters such as accidental release or even an explosion. Considering how many serious fires and explosions have taken place over the past few years due to improper chemical handling and storage, is it any surprise that agencies are increasing scrutiny during site inspections?

Chemical Process Safety Management Is Not Optional for Companies

OSHA’s commitment to risk prevention when it comes to the use, storage, handling, and manufacture of hazardous chemicals isn’t the only thing firms need to remain vigilant about either. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tightening its own guidelines to mirror and complement those of OSHA. This year, they announced an initiative to focus on the reduction of accidental chemical releases.2 They’ve also proposed changes to the safety rules in certain industries that would require companies to assess whether they could adopt safer chemicals in their industrial processes.3 All signs point toward greater regulatory oversight and more stringent standards, which means companies need to improve their chemical process safety management strategies in order to avoid unwanted violations.

Areas that companies can focus on over the course of evaluating their chemical process safety management standards include:

  • Chemical and process hazards: Is there a chemical management safety plan? What are the physical properties of the hazardous chemicals housed on site? Are they reactive? Corrosive? What precautions need to be taken in order to safely store and handle these chemicals during procedures?
  • Written standard operating procedures: Using the chemical safety information, protocols covering the handling and processes involved must be created and made accessible to all employees.
  • Training: Not only must standard operating procedures be made available to all employees, workers must be trained in their usage to guarantee comprehension and compliance. In addition, periodic refresher courses should be implemented to update employees on any changes and to encourage diligent observance.
  • Emergency planning and preparedness: At the most basic level, facilities should assess the risks involved in the storage, handling and processing of chemicals kept on-site and develop chemical management plans in case of an emergency. These plans cover a wide range of incidents, ranging from spills to accidental release. In the case of highly hazardous chemicals, facilities should also be prepared to coordinate with surrounding communities and determine whether local emergency response teams are capable of and equipped to handle the worst case scenarios.

Safety, especially with regards to extremely hazardous chemicals, should be the #1 priority of any company. Not only is there the pressure from government agencies to consider, there is also the public fallout that can result from disasters caused by lapses. We’ve seen companies have to close their doors permanently, lawsuits filed and even officials be arrested because of these tragedies. While it may be impossible to prevent 100% of accidents 100% of the time, organizations still need to do their best to minimize the potential as much as possible. Establishing and following chemical process safety management strategies at their facilities will go a long way to bringing that goal to fruition.

BIOVIA CISPro is a fully customizable chemical inventory system that can help any firm’s efforts to implement chemical process safety management standards in their facilities. The software is flexible enough to support both small companies and global organizational giants. Its features include the ability to track chemical inventory from receipt to disposal, monitor expiration dates and ensure accurate chemical safety data. If your company is interested in a tool to aid its quest in minimizing the risks of handling and processing hazardous chemicals, then please contact us today to learn more about BIOVIA CISPro or request a demo.

  1. “OSHA Cites Chemical Company For Serious Safety Violations,” February 18, 2016, http://www.chem.info/news/2016/02/osha-cites-chemical-company-serious-safety-violations
  2. “EPA reveals national enforcement initiatives ahead of 2016 election,” March 11, 2016, http://www.agprofessional.com/news/epa-reveals-national-enforcement-initiatives-ahead-2016-election
  3. “EPA Proposes Chemical Safety Rule Changes,” March 1, 2016, http://www.environmentalleader.com/2016/03/01/epa-proposes-chemical-safety-rule-changes/

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