13 - Control of Process Hazards
Process hazards are related to the ‘core business activities’ of the premises. Process hazards are not only those within chemical processes but exist in many general business operations such as warehousing, manufacturing and service industries. Fire hazards are particularly prevalent in processes with 'increased energy' such as increased pressure, temperature and/or chemical reaction. They can also be present in areas such as laundries (e.g. hotels), server rooms (e.g. telecoms), diagnostic equipment (e.g. hospitals) and commercial kitchens.
What do we look for?
- The type, amount and extent of the process hazards present and available to cause or support a fire
- The extent of flammable, combustible, or highly reactive materials including combustible dusts, gases and aerosols
- The extent of processes which involve an increased risk of ignition such as heating extremes, hot surfaces or naked flames
- The extent of hazardous process services such as natural gas/LPG, hydraulic oil systems, heated oil systems.
- Process hazards introducing an unusual (higher or lower) degree of exposure to the occupancy compared to normal expectations
- Equipment designed, installed, and maintained per applicable standards
- Appropriate controls for process equipment (e.g. low level cutoffs, pressure or temperature cutouts, earthing or grounding to mitigate static charge accumulations, gas detection and analyzer systems) interlocked with automatic safety shutdown and/or alarms.
- Appropriate equipment operating procedures.
- Ongoing training of operators in safe operating procedures and emergency response (e.g. prompt isolation and notification).Periodic, visual, and recorded inspections. Frequency suited to system age, equipment type, and environmental conditions. Inspections are intended to identify and manage systems with conditions such as:
- Aged equipment
- Signs of damage
- Inappropriate equipment for the occupancy Inappropriate equipment location (e.g. burners close to storage, fuel sources or combustible construction,)
- Inadequate physical protection (guarding)
- Exposures to combustibles too close to equipment
- Accumulations of dust or oily residues (including filters in spray booths and extraction ductwork)
- Annual testing of equipment controls
Risk improvement ideas
- Conduct a formal Hazard Analysis to identify process hazards and develop safe operating controls. This should be regularly reviewed and updated.
- Have detailed Safe Operating Procedures in place for all plant equipment.
- Train employees to be aware of common process hazards and safe operating procedures and to respond to emergency situations appropriately. This training should be conducted at periodic intervals.
- Perform ongoing maintenance and diagnostic testing of critical control systems such as high temperature or pressure cut-outs, pressure switches, automatic safety shut-off valves, and any supervisory control systems (e.g. programmable logic controllers, computers) to confirm full operating functionality.
- Regular inspections and cleaning routines, including extract ductwork.