Process Safety Management, or PSM, is an OSHA regulation that is concerned with processes at your facility that use highly hazardous chemicals.  PSM provides a compliance framework to evaluate each process with the end goal of no spills, fires, explosions, reactions, releases or other incidents arise from their use.  The official standard can be found at 29 CFR 1910.119.

PSM applies to

  • Processes which involve certain threshold quantities of chemicals listed in the standard’s Appendix A
  • Processes where there are 10,000 lbs. or more of a Category I flammable gas (per 1910.1200(c)) or flammable liquids with a flashpoint below 100 degrees on site in one location
  • Manufacturing explosives or pyrotechnics in any quantity

Exceptions to these include retail facilities, hydrocarbon fuels for workplace consumption of fuels, oil or gas well drilling or servicing operations and unoccupied remote facilities.  Facilities with flammable liquids with a flashpoint below 100 degrees that are stored in atmospheric tanks or that are transferred below their normal boiling point without being refrigerated are also exempt.

The 14 Elements of Compliance

There are 14 elements to a Process Safety Management compliance program.  These include:

 1.  Employee Participation

Those who are most familiar with the process need to be involved.  Facilities must have a written plan of action on how they’re going to incorporate employees into the process hazard analyses and development of other elements of PSM.  Both operations and maintenance personnel and any other employees that play a heavy role in facilities operations must be involved.  Employees must be represented at meetings and teams should include persons involved in the process being used.

2.  Process Safety Information

Facilities must first compile written process safety information before they can do their hazard analysis.  Process safety information looks at the hazards involved with the processes at the facility.  Information should include:

  • Toxicity
  • Permissible exposure limits
  • Physical, reactive and corrosivity data
  • Thermal and chemical stability data, especially the hazards in mixing different materials
  • Flow diagram of the process
  • Process chemistry
  • Maximum intended inventory
  • Safe upper and lower limits for temperatures, pressures, flows, compositions
  • Consequences of deviations

Facility equipment must be evaluated for its compliance with engineering standards, including:

  • Materials of construction
  • Piping and instrument diagrams
  • Electrical classification
  • Relief and ventilation system designs
  • Design codes and standards
  • Material and energy balances
  • Safety systems

3.  Process Hazard Analysis

Process hazard analysis should identify, evaluate and determine ways to control hazards involved within the process.  OSHA lists some suggested methods you can use to do your process hazard analysis.  The analysis needs to be updated, revalidated and documented every 5 years.  It’s suggested that not only persons knowledgeable in the specific processes be involved, but engineering and maintenance experts need to be involved as well.

Some of the items to be evaluated:

  • The hazards of the process
  • The identification of any previous incident that had a potential for catastrophic consequences
  • Engineering and administrative controls applicable to the hazards and their interrelationships, like detections to provide early warning of releases
  • Consequences of failure of engineering and administrative controls
  • Facility siting
  • Human factors
  • A qualitative evaluation of a range of the possible safety and health effects if a failure of controls occurs.

Facilities are required to develop and document a system to address the findings and get them resolved in a timely manner.

4.  Operating Procedures

Written operating procedures need to be developed with safety in mind.  Some of these include procedures for:

  • Initial startup and startups after turnarounds
  • Normal operations
  • Temporary or emergency operations
  • Shutdowns
  • Operating limits
  • Precautions to prevent exposures
  • Safety systems
  • Quality control for raw materials
  • Safe work practices

5.  Training

Initial PSM training is required for new employees or persons assigned to new processes.  Refresher training is required every 3 years.

6.  Contractors

PSM applies to contractors conducting maintenance, repair, turnaround, major renovation or specialty work adjacent to a covered process.   Facilities are responsible for gathering contractor safety performance and programs, informing contract employers of known fire, explosion or toxic release hazards, explaining the emergency action plan, developing and implementing safe work practices to control the presence, entrance and exit of contract personnel and maintaining contractor injury and illness log information.

7.  Pre-Startup Safety Review

Safety procedures must be reviewed in a pre-safety review before a new facility starts up or modified facility starts up again.

8.  Mechanical Integrity

Mechanical integrity requirements apply to pressure vessels, storage tanks, piping systems, relief and vent systems and devices, emergency shutdown systems, controls and pumps.

Written procedures must be developed to ensure ongoing integrity of process equipment is   maintained and routinely inspected using good engineering practices.  Any deficiencies found must be corrected before further use.

9.  Hot Work Permit

Hot work permits are required to be issued for work on or near a covered process and kept on file until completion of the work.

10.  Management of Change

Any change to a process must be thoroughly evaluated for its impact on employee safety and health.  Written procedures must be developed to discuss the change’s:

  • Technical basis
  • Impact on employee safety and health
  • Modifications to operating procedures
  • Time period
  • Authorization requirements

Any affected employees must be informed of and trained in the change prior to startup.  Any changes that affect process safety information will mean changes in operating procedures or safety procedures as well.

11.  Incident Investigation

Each incident that resulted in, or could have reasonably resulted in, a significant release of highly hazardous chemicals must be thoroughly investigated to identify the chain of events that led to it. The investigation needs to be held no later than 48 hours from the incident and must include at least one person knowledgeable of the process and any contractors involved.  An investigation report needs to be developed and kept on file for 5 years.

12.  Emergency Planning and Audits

An Emergency Action Plan must be developed for the entire plant in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.138(a).  The plan needs to include procedures for small releases and may need to also follow HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) regulations 29 CFR 1910.120 (a), (p) and (q).

13.  Compliance Audits

Compliance evaluations must be conducted every 3 years to verify PSM practices are adequate and being followed.  A report of these evaluations need to be certified and the most recent 2 reports need to be kept on file.

14.  Trade Secrets

Some companies didn’t want to disclose PSM information to their employees because of trade secret concerns, so OSHA added that they must make compliance, emergency and operational procedures information available anyway, as well as incident information available to investigators.  A company can, however, ask an employee to sign a confidentiality agreement to protect trade information.


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Steve Hieger
Steve Hieger


Steve Hieger

Consulting Services Manager

Steve manages and oversees all of iSi’s environmental, health and safety consultants and provides as-needed technical support for all environmental and safety client projects.  A former plant manager for chemical manufacturing facilities, Steve brings a vast knowledge in process hazard analysis, process safety management, facility safety and environmental issues.  

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