A Process Safety Management Company

Tag: Risk Assessment

Blog, PHA

How to Protect Your Ship from Process Safety Hazards

In Star Trek, the ship is protected by a force field called a “shield”.  When under attack, the tactical officer will call out the status of the shield’s integrity, e.g. “shields at 70%, Captain.”  When shields are down to 10%, you know that a breach is imminent unless they retreat or find a way to defeat their attacker.

In a refinery or chemical plant, there is no one calling out the integrity of our protection systems and procedures every few minutes.

But OSHA has specified three specific process safety elements that are critical to Protect Against the Hazards (one of the Five PSM Mindets™) – Pre-Startup Safety Reviews, Mechanical Integrity, and Hot Work Permits.

Taking Action to Prevent Disaster

Once we’ve identified the hazards, it’s time to do something about it. We’ve seen where danger may strike, so we go to the possible sources. We anticipate what could go wrong and prepare for it.

  • We put procedures in place to create consistency and avoid mistakes. But are the procedures being followed? 
  • We add alarms and limits to alert us to known unsafe conditions. Will the appropriate alarms overwhelm the operator in the event of an emergency? 
  • We install systems such as relief valves and automatic shutdowns to react as quickly as physically possible if a dangerous limit is exceeded. Are the safety relief devices and shutdown systems being maintained according to industry standards?  What about the mechanical integrity of the pipes, pumps, or vessels? 

In a process hazard analysis (PHA), safeguards and layers of protection are identified and counted on.  And in our industry, there is a great deal of focus on mechanical integrity and maintaining safety instrumented systems.

The Shield Doesn’t Replace the Crew

In a successful process safety culture, the success or failure of the facility is the responsibility of everyone together – like the crew on Star Trek.

If you are going to help ensure the shields are at maximum strength, here are a few places to start:

  • First, know your enemy – become familiar with the hazards that have been identified and communicated to you.
  • Get to know what the protection layers are for the areas you work in.
  • When there are safe work practices and procedures in place, follow them closely. When you know the “why” behind the procedure, you can be on the lookout for any gaps or concerns.

The safety of a star ship isn’t just dependent on its shield. It depends upon each crew member doing their part and working as a team.

The safety of a facility isn’t just based on the safeguards put in place, but upon each person inside the gate doing their part.

You are more than helping maintain the “shield” – YOU are an integral part of the shield preventing catastrophe so that we may all “live long and prosper”.

Read More from the Five PSM Mindsets™ Series:

This series is based on the concept of the Five PSM Mindsets™ – a unique way to apply OSHA’s 14 PSM elements to your PSM program. Watch this on-demand webinar from Sarah McDuffee for a better understanding of the Five PSM Mindsets™ and how adopting them can create a better process safety culture in your facility.
Sarah McDuffee
About the Author
Sarah McDuffee
Sarah McDuffee joined Provenance Consulting in 2015 as Training Program Coordinator, creating internal and external training courses for industry clients on various Process Safety Management topics. Her background includes 19 years of experience in the refining/chemical industry. She has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Montana State University.  Her 11 years with a major refining company included project design, process unit support and distillation consulting roles.

She completed her Masters in Adult Education and Training with Colorado State University in 2011 while working for Northern Oklahoma College as an engineering instructor for 5 years. During that time, Sarah also served as Program Director for the Process Technology program for four years, partnering with industry on curriculum, recruiting and placement.

PHA, Webinar

The Importance of Operating Procedures & How to Use Them Effectively

Could your facility be under-utilizing your operating procedures? Find out how to use them beyond day-to-day operations.

This 60-minute sponsored webinar starts off by looking at why operating procedures are essential to your safety and efficiency, OSHA requirements related to their content and generation and common mistakes made in the process. You’ll then go on to consider the ways operating procedures can be used beyond the day to day. Learn how operating procedures are a vital part of your PHAs and closely linked to PSI. In addition, discover effective methods for maintaining, storing and accessing operating procedures. By the end of the webinar, you’ll have a better understanding of operating procedures and how to use them more effectively in your facility.

Learn more about our PHA Services


Justin Phillips, P.E.

Justin Phillips has over eight years of onshore and offshore oil & gas process engineering and project execution experience. His technical experience includes process design with specialty in flare and relief systems.

Justin is the Relief Systems Line of Service Manager at Provenance Consulting, LLC. He holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas and is a Licensed Professional Engineer in the State of Texas.

AIChE’s 2015 Spring Meeting and 11th Global Congress on Process Safety

Provenance Consulting is excited to share our involvement next week at AIChE’s Global Congress on Process Safety in Austin, TX. Provenance will be giving four presentations at the conference and will also be at booth #420 in the exhibit area – so please stop by and see us! Below is a brief summary of each presentation.

We look forward to seeing you in Austin!

Monday, 27 April

Can I Use My Cooling Water Header As a Relief Device?

Rahul Raman, 11:30am

The ASME BPVC is a well-recognized code of construction and allows pipe that discharges to the atmosphere as an acceptable pressure relief device. However, there are safety considerations and industry guidance that restrict the use of using a cooling water side of heat exchanger specifically as a relief device. This presentation interprets the landscape of existing regulatory framework to show the industry regarding the ways to use it as a relief device and the underlying assumptions for such use.

Overfilling Protection for Weak Tanks

Rahul Raman, 2:30pm

Weak tanks have relief valves that are typically sized for vapor/gas service. These tanks are subject to overflowing and collapse due to the pressure force. Minimal amounts of liquid is enough to over-pressurize the tank. Currently there is no industry guidance to size a relief device for such low pressure tanks. Furthermore, there is a lack of data from the manufacturers. Provenance has tag-teamed with PROTEGO® to establish a methodology and vetted it with experimental data. Using conventional available tools for engineers, we have developed a methodology to accurately predict the capacity within a +/- 10% error tolerance.

 Tuesday, 28 April

Developing Credible Scenarios for a PHA

Nestor Paraliticci, 2:30pm

OSHA’s Compliance Guidelines and Recommendations for the PSM Standard states “A PHA is an organized and systematic effort to identify and analyze the significance of potential hazards associated with the processing or handling of highly hazardous chemicals.” It goes on to say “A PHA is directed toward analyzing potential causes and consequences of fires, explosions, releases of toxic or flammable chemicals and major spills of hazardous chemicals.” OSHA does not give any additional guidance; they just refer you to 18 additional “Sources of Further Information”. So rather than spending your free time reading these books, I would like to present a process on how to develop scenarios (causes and consequences), tips on creating credible and realistic scenarios and the pitfalls to avoid during the process, commonly encountered during a PHA .

Wednesday, 29 April

Guidance for Sizing Relief Devices That Are Installed below Liquid Level in an External Fire

Rahul Raman, 8:30am

A fire impinging on a pressure vessel results in boiling up of the liquid and generates vapor that needs to be relieved though a pressure relief valve. Due to geometry or maintenance reasons a relief valve can be installed below the liquid level. In this scenario the vapor pushes hot saturated liquid and has a potential to flash as it flows across the relief system piping. This paper gives the guidance to size relief valve that are installed in such service.