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Process safety management

How do you know it won't happen to you?

A number of recent incidents in various parts of the world have highlighted the increasing importance of effective process safety management (PSM).  In addition to the immediate human, environmental and financial costs, there have been:

  • escalating effects upon the reputations of companies, their senior executives and the industry as a whole;
  • increased scrutiny by the regulators and governments, and
  • impacts upon the share prices of the involved companies, causing investors to question the security of their investments in the high hazard industries.

Companies invariably monitor safety performance, often by measuring the time elapsed since the last process safety incident.  However, the 'Baker Report' (The report of the BP U.S. refineries independent safety review panel) published following the 2005 incident at the Texas City Refinery concluded that: "The passing of time without a process safety accident is not necessarily an indication that all is well".

Most well run organisations can tell you how many incidents they had yesterday; however, our real challenge is to be able to answer the question "How likely am I to have an incident-free day tomorrow?"

Process safety management in context

The challenge for the process industry is often clearly set out in three statements by chief executives as:

  • ensure we don't hurt anyone;
  • ensure we don't harm the environment,
  • and achieve a certain level of return on capital employed (ROCE). 

Typically, organisations are very clear on what they need to do to deliver ROCE - maximise income and optimise expenditure - however, without a clear understanding of what is required to meet health, safety and environment (HS&E) objectives, the approach and costs of managing them will lack control.  Furthermore, there may be little indication or warning if these activities are being ineffective until an incident occurs.

Process safety management in context  

We have all seen the typical banner statements 'zero harm', 'flawless operation', 'target zero', 'incident free', nobody gets hurt'; but the two key questions for executives and managers at all levels are:

          1. How will we assure the integrity of the operation?
          2. How will we know we are doing it?

All too often the first two words used to answer these questions are "I think...."; in reality this means "I don't know"!  Recent events have shown that such answers are no longer acceptable and that, from top to bottom, organisations need to be able to answer these two key questions with absolute confidence.

Key resources - PSM defined and managed in 3 steps

PSM involves managing a number of technical, managerial and human factors activities which, if not managed effectively, may lead to a major incident in future.  The EI has produced three key resources to help industry identify and manage these activities:

1) High level framework for process safety management ('PSM framework') - a comprehensive process safety management framework which captures industry good practice in PSM and provides the energy industry with a consistent and effective approach to answer the two key questions with confidence.

2) New Guidance on meeting expectations of EI process safety management framework ('PSM guidelines') - comprehensive guidelines to manage process safety for each Element of the PSM framework.

3) EI Process Safety Survey ('EIPSS') - an in depth survey based on the PSM framework, allowing companies to assess their process safety arrangements and benchmark performance against industry.


Current developments

The EI Process Safety Committee are developing detailed guidance on how to meet the expectations defined in each element of the EI PSM Framework.

Communications activities

The EIPSS and EI PSM framework has been presented to:

  Articles regarding EI PSM framework (and EIPSS) have been included in:

  • Petroleum Review - Refining and Bulk Storage supplement (December 2010).
  • Petroleum Review (January 2011)
  • Energy world (February 2011)
  • Marsh Loss Control Newsletter (Edition 1, 2011)
  • Petroleum Review (September 2011)
  • Tank Storage Magazine (March 2014)


Further information

If you are interested in finding out more about EI PSM framework, or are seeking a presentation to an organisation or industry group, or require an article for an industry magazine contact Mark Scanlon (, 00 44 (0) 20 7467 7129)

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