Process safety is mostly about controlling direct human error (like operator errors), indirect (latent) effects of human error (main reason parts fail), and compensating for human error. There is also a lot of basic chemical engineering to learn to understand how PSM is controlled and what leads to process hazards. Many folks say that “hands-on” experience is key… there is NO replacement for that… make sure the hands-on PSM activities are always addressing the questions: “how can this __xx___ best optimize human factors and control or compensate for human error,” where xx is any procedure or tool or equipment interface or training module. If you are new to process safety, there is a lot of reading materials that can help you learn more about process safety. For instance, the papers on our website are free and are good starting resources; some for beginners and some for experienced process safety staff. You should also start a library of the 40 or so unique textbooks from the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS), the division of American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), which controls the international definitions and standards for Process Safety. All of the books are developed by committees of experts (and some novices) and many of the textbooks are excellent (some are Not that as strong). A good starting book is “Risk-Based Process Safety”, 2007. This is the current process safety definition by CCPS/AIChE. It is well written. After that, get the current revisions of the textbooks on the core process safety elements, such as “Guidelines for Hazard Evaluation Procedures”, 3rd edition, 2008 (adding the new text in Chapter 9 is the key improvement brought out by the 3rd edition). The “Guidelines or Mechanical Integrity” is also good and well written. The upcoming book (early 2011) on Independent Protection Layers and Initiating Events will also teach you a lot (even if you do not need LOPA right now). From there, you need to decide where you want to go next. Go to to see a list of the books; but the current editions are now sold through the publisher used by AIChE, which is Wiley; Amazon carries many of the titles.

PSM takes about 3-4 years to learn the basics and 10+ to get good at it. This does not account for closing a knowledge gap, if one exists, on the engineering principals involved (how well do you understand PSV sizing, SIS specification and calculations, LOPA and IPL principals, metallurgy and material of construction sensitive issues, Joules-Thompson effects, chemical reaction kinetics, etc.).

Related to training, there are several worthy providers of PSM-related training. You can do a Google search for such courses; most offer public courses. Our courses are highly praised and attended.

Visit PII at to find out more about effective implementation of process safety and human factors optimization.