In the early morning hours of December 03, 1984, over forty (40) tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the Union Carbide India plant in Bhopal, India. More than 3000 people immediately perished from the accidental release of highly toxic MIC gas, and an additional 15 000 deaths, along with numerous health-related claims, were attributed to this event.
On July 06, 1988, the Piper Alpha oil production platform, operating in the North Sea, suffered a series of explosions that led to an uncontrollable fire that engulfed the platform and claimed the lives of 167 crewmembers. A leak of natural gas condensate, which had built up beneath the platform was deemed to be the cause of the first explosion that eventually led to the demise and sinking of the platform. Like the Bhopal, India catastrophe, the sudden and unexpected release of a highly hazardous substance initiated a series of events that led to a significant loss of life and assets.
These are only two examples of the disasters that have plagued the evolution of industrial processing and manufacturing. While there have been significant advances in technology and control systems, the opportunity for these situations to be repeated continue to exist in the 21st century. It has been recognized that to prevent these critical loss occurrences a systematic approach towards hazard identification and risk analysis is also needed.
In 1992, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) formally recognized this vital component for managing high hazard chemical processes within the United States. A company that is involved in high hazard chemical processes or activities is mandated to implement a process safety management system. This system must include the systematic identification of hazards, risk level, and control strategies or corrective actions needed to prevent and/or minimize the consequences of a hazardous substance release. These requirements are defined by the Process Safety Management (PSM) of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, Explosives and Blasting Agents standard; OSHA 29 CFR 1910.119.
Process Hazard Management is also called Safety Systems Management or Process Safety Management. Regardless of the terminology, these are all systems that have been developed to manage the risk to personnel, property, production, the environment and ultimately, the company reputation. The occurrence of major industrial accidents and subsequent implementation of forceful safety and environmental legislation in many countries has made the Process Safety Management (PSM) or Process Hazard Management program an industry standard. The Process Safety Management (PSM) standard (OHSA 29- Part 1910.119) is the regulatory framework for process industries in the USA and is quickly becoming the industry " best practices" standard for responsible companies worldwide. American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practice 750–1990, is the recommended standard for Canadian process industries and includes similar considerations for a PSM program and PHA evaluation.