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Why perform a PHA?

Have you ever driven by a chemical plant, or another manufacturing facility and seen tanks holding who-knows-what ? Maybe you have a manufacturing plant near where you live. Ever wonder what they are doing to ensure their own safety and yours?

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has a program for any facility that uses specific hazardous materials, or large volumes of common hazardous chemicals. That program is called Process Safety Management or PSM. The program encompasses many elements and sub-programs designed to properly manage chemical hazards.

One of the elements is Process Hazard Analysis or PHA. It is required of any facility that meets the criteria to be considered a PSM facility (or has a PSM facility within a larger facility). It is also a program that any facility handling hazardous materials can employ, even if not required by OSHA regulation and it can significantly improve facility safety, for employees, neighbors and other stakeholders.

Simply put, a PHA is a way to work through potential dangers or hazards in a plant/manufacturing environment. It is performed by a group of skilled employees from the plant, facilitated by an expert leader, who systematically go through each area of the plant and talk through scenarios related to failures of each piece of equipment or system. Examples include, “What if this tank overflows?” or “What if this pump stops working?” or “What if this material gets too hot?” Consequences of these and other failure scenarios are discussed, and the possible negative outcomes are considered. Countermeasures are identified. These countermeasures are called “safeguards.” A safeguard can be a valve, an instrument showing temperature, or a computerized system that closes valves and stops pumps when things get out of hand. Consequences are also ranked for severity and probability. The higher the probability and/or severity, the more safeguards may be appropriate.

Creative Engineers, Inc can lead your PHA and provide advice and guidance on other aspects of OSHA Process Safety Management, including full PSM audits. We can be helpful with preparation, document maintenance, design of safeguards, and implementation of corrective actions. This can be especially advantageous and cost effective to small or mid-size plants who may struggle to justify employing a full time PSM/PHA specialist.

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