Can process safety be applied to smaller systems?


A process safety system is part art, part science. It’s a mixture of system skills and engineering for the prevention of catastrophic accidents such as fires, and toxic releases from explosions.
Recent disasters such as 2005 Buncefield in the UK and BP’s Texas City refinery in the US illustrates the importance of good process safety management.
Process safety is universal. It sounds like it’s a practice for only large organisation, but it can be adapted to small systems too.

The four corners of process safety:

  • Leadership
  • Risk identification and assessment;
  • Risk management
  • Review and improvement.

Safety practitioners will note that the pillars correlate to the more common systems models: plan, do, check, act, or POPIMAR (policy, organisation, planning, implementation, monitor and review).
The first stage of the process safety approach is to understand the hazards we want to avoid. Having identified the hazard, the next step is to describe the control measures such as offering engineering solutions.
Once identified a control measure, you can use leading and lagging indicators to measure its effectiveness.

Leading indicators:

  • Completion of maintenance tasks
  • Completion of operational tasks
  • Number and competency of responsible persons supporting the safety process
  • Quality of the risk assessment and written scheme.

Lagging indicators:

  • High measurement of the element you wish to prevent/control
  • Complaints about workplace environment

Once the controls are mapped, along with the activities to ensure they are maintained, the next challenge is to ensure it is a priority for leaders, so that they influence the organisation and make sure any shortfalls are corrected.

This mechanism is lacking in many organisations. Process safety tools cannot ensure leadership commitment, but by tabulating the controls and the performance of them the reduction in barriers can be documented.

Reporting is an important ingredient in the safety process. Reports need to make the gaps in control visible, with increasing urgency the more gaps there are. The reports provide a notification and foundation on how employees can react to ensure process safety is the best it can be.

Reynolds Training Services offer a range of Process Safety Management from level 2 to level 5 diploma in the practice of process safety management. See our courses here

Contact us

Let’s get
learning together!

0331 6300 626

Lines open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, GMT

Karon Reynolds

Prefer to talk by email?

Contact us by email

Send a message to
or fill in the form and a member of our safety team is standing by to help.

- John Reynolds