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The 4 Approaches to Inherently Safer Technology

Posted on 6/30/2015 by James Griffin

In response to recent industrial accidents, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) is encouraging OSHA to modernize its Process Safety Management (PSM) regulations for industry. As part of this effort, which CSB has named one of its "most wanted safety improvements," the Board recommends the use of inherently safer technologies in hazardous process design and operation.

What Is Inherently Safer Technology (IST)?

Inherently Safer Technology (IST), also known as Inherently Safer Design (ISD), is defined by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) as a process that considers options like "eliminating a hazard, reducing a hazard, substituting a less hazardous material, using less hazardous process conditions, and designing a process to reduce the potential for, or consequences of, human error, equipment failure, or intentional harm." ("Final Report: Definition for Inherently Safer Technology in Production, Transportation, Storage and Use"; Homeland Security, July 2010)

The Four Approaches to IST

IST is not a specific technology, but an approach or "way of thinking" to design safer operations. The goals of this approach are to reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring and to mitigate the consequences when an accident does occur.

While specific approaches to IST will vary, based on its specific application, the CSB and the National Academy of Sciences have identified four approaches:
  1. Minimize: reduce the amount of hazardous materials present within a process
  2. Substitute: replace more hazardous substances with substances of lesser hazard
  3. Moderate: use less hazardous process conditions (e.g., operate a process at lower temperatures or pressures)
  4. Simplify: design the process to be less complicated and thus less prone to failure.
Further IST Reading

While IST is widely accepted as a reasonable and sound approach to process design, opinions vary as to its place in accidental release prevention regulations. For more information on inherently safer technologies and the varied policy positions on IST, visit:

Define your approach inherently safer technology American Chemistry Society

American Institue of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)

Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB)

National Research Council

American Chemistry Council (ACC)

What Is the CSB?

The CSB is an independent Federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. It does not write regulations. Rather, like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it makes safety recommendations to government agencies, companies, trade associations, labor unions, and other groups.

The CSB believes that implementing key safety recommendations into the US Federal and State Process Safety Management regulations will help better protect worker safety, public health, and the environment.


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