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Process Safety Management / Process Safety Engineering
Recent posts have generated useful discussion to do with the meaning of the phrases ‘Process Safety Management’ and ‘Process Safety Engineering’. I am not aware of dictionary definitions that can help us understand the difference between the two. (I tried ChatGPT but their system seems to have frozen up.)
One way of differentiating the terms is to see process safety engineering as being to do with technical issues such as fire and explosion modeling, or the use of engineering standards. Process safety management, on the other hand, is a broader topic. It includes management principles and the challenges of working with real people in the real world. Looked at this way, process safety engineering is one part of the larger topic of process safety management.
This is not just a theoretical discussion. I recall leading a Process Hazards Analysis (PHA) at a refinery. We found that there was a realistic possibility that an upset could lead to a release of toxic vapors. Those vapors could, depending on the size of the leak, go “over the fence” and impact the local community.
We informed the refinery manager that we could carry out a detailed vapor dispersion analysis. The cost of this analysis could be up to $50,000. The refinery manager rejected the proposal. He did, however, provide a grant of $50,000 to the local fire department to purchase equipment that they could use in the event of a leak.
Therefore, the next step in this particular process safety management program was for me to visit with the fire chief, and to help him develop an emergency response program. In other words, we transitioned from process safety engineering to process safety management.
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