Goal is to prevent release of highly hazardous substances that could lead to catastrophic consequences
WorkSafeBC has launched a new initiative around process safety in order to help prevent low-frequency, high-consequence events, such as catastrophic fires, explosions, chemical releases and structural collapses.
“Process safety is a form of risk assessment that aims to identify any significant hazards and threats at a work site and implement critical controls to mitigate any harm,” WorkSafeBC said in a news release. “The goal is to prevent the release of any highly hazardous substances — such as flammable and explosive chemicals, toxic gases and combustible dust — that could lead to catastrophic consequences for workers and the public.”
A team of prevention officers, engineers, risk analysts and human factors specialists at the agency have come together to conduct inspections and engage employers in process safety.
“We are looking at the types of hazards and the risks they pose that are specific to each employer, and how they are managing and controlling those risks,” said Gordon Harkness, manager, risk analysis unit, WorkSafeBC. “We want employers to manage the risks that are created through their processes.”
The initiative is focusing on chemical manufacturing and processing, oil and gas and wood products manufacturing.
“We see process safety as the next logical step in the journey that we’ve been working on with health and safety in the province,” said Budd Phillips, manager, prevention field services, WorkSafeBC. “We’re now going beyond the idea of what is hurting you today — the day-to-day occupational hazards and exposure issues — and into the catastrophic potential of different industrial processes.”
When process safety fails, a large number of workers and the public can be seriously affected. An example of a catastrophic process safety-related incident is the ammonia-nitrate explosion that occurred at the West Fertilizer Company facility in West, Texas, in 2013. The incident resulted in the death of 15 people and injured more than 200 others.
“Ultimately, this is about reducing the risk of a catastrophic event and keeping workers and the public safe from harm,” said Phillips.