Blog - Steel Safety Day 2019: Why Process Safety Management matters

Andrew Purvis
Director, Safety, Health and Environment, worldsteel
28 March 2019

On April 28th the global steel industry comes together to mark #steelSafetyDay.

Steel Safety Day was established in 2014 to create a safer working environment across the entire steel industry worldwide. Around Steel Safety Day hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors from across the world engage in audits and safety conversations around the five most common causes of serious safety incidents across our sector - moving machinery, working at heights, falling objects, on-site traffic and process safety incidents.

This year worldsteel will shine a spotlight on Process Safety Management (PSM).

Process Safety Management is a little harder to conceptualise than falling objects, or onsite traffic, but essentially it seeks to prevent releases of hazardous materials or energies that have the potential to generate catastrophic incidents. Such incidents can cause fires, explosions or structural damage and could ultimately result in serious injuries, significant financial impact, harm to the community and/or substantial environmental impact. 

Two very high profile PSM incidents that spring to mind are the recent Brumadinho dam collapse  in Brazil in January 2019, and the more recent Yancheng chemical plant explosion in China in March of this year. Both these catastrophes occurred because of a ‘loss of containment ’ (“keeping it in the pipes” as our colleagues in the Oil and Gas sector would put it),  of iron ore waste and mud in the first instance and an unknown, at this stage, substance in the latter which subsequently ignited and exploded.

Loss of containment of energy and hazardous materials (such as liquid metal, or co-product gases) has occurred before in our industry with serious consequences. It is essential steelmakers focus on process safety to keep their workers and community safe, preserve the environment and maintain the social license to operate of their businesses that they currently enjoy.

Critical to process safety is the ability to answer three critical questions that all company boards were challenged to answer by the UK Health and Safety executive following the Buncefield disaster in the UK in 2005.

  • Do you understand what could go wrong?
  • Do you know what systems and barriers you have in place to prevent these things from happening?
  • Are you sure that these systems and barriers are working correctly?

worldsteel’s Process Safety Management programme exists to support our members so they can confidently answer in the affirmative to these questions. Our Process Safety Management fundamentals provide a framework we use to address the priorities set in this programme.

SIX PROCESS SAFETY MANAGEMENT FUNDAMENTALS

  1. Ensure there is a commitment to Process Safety Management.
  2. Establish a hazard evaluation and risk analysis programme.
  3. Implement and maintain a risk management and control system.
  4. Strive to excellence in learning from experience.
  5. Utilise continuous improvement to ensure Process Safety Management effectiveness.
  6. Maintain a sense of vulnerability in Process Safety Management.
     

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