Jocelyn Seig  - 2020 Essay Winner


Mechanical Integrity 





An essay by Jocelyn Seig

   Following the fatal explosion at the Phillips 66 Chemical Compound in 1989, OSHA launched new requirements to ensure a safer environment for workers. This initiative, the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Materials (PSM), was added in 1992 in order to reduce the likelihood of future accidents involving the unwanted release of chemicals. Mechanical Integrity, one of the fourteen elements of PSM, has proven its importance time and time again.

   Mechanical Integrity encompasses the procedures necessary to ensure that critical equipment is "designed and installed correctly and operates properly" (OSHA). Maintaining the mechanical integrity of equipment is essential in limiting the occurrence of catastrophic failures. This OSHA regulation requires that employers properly train their employees on hazards that can arise and procedures to properly handle these situations as they come up. Mechanical Integrity also mandates that all process equipment be inspected and tested. Each inspection conducted must be documented in detail, providing the "date of the inspection or test, the name of the person who performed the inspection or test,....and the results of the inspection or test" (OSHA). Frequent inspection of equipment prevents a need for repair or errors from going unnoticed, which ultimately eliminates the threat of a mechanical failure due to deterioration over time. With Phillips 66 Refinery just miles down the road from where I live and my father making routine trips to other local refineries, the safety measures put in place by OSHA bring comfort to myself and numerous other family members around Whatcom County.

   The importance of these standards has been highlighted by the disastrous events that occur as a result of Mechanical Integrity not being met with adequacy. Multiple incidents, such as the pipeline rupture and subsequent fire in Bellingham, Washington, have shown the catastrophic outcome of the PSM not properly being followed. On June 10th, 1999, a steel pipeline, owned by Olympic Pipe Line Company, "ruptured and released about 237,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek that flowed through Whatcom Falls Park" (Carmody). After less than two hours, the gasoline ignited, killing two 10-year old boys and an 18-year old young man. Upon investigation, it was found that the pipeline had been damaged during a construction job prior to the rupture and could have been repaired if the proper procedures were followed. However, due to the inadequate inspection of the mechanical components of the pipeline, the company was not able to "identify the true extent of the damage" {Carmody). Had the standards of Mechanical Integrity been followed, the damage could have been documented and fixed, preventing the consequent rupture. This failure to abide by the PSM brought tragedy to the responsible companies, its employees, and the surrounding community. 

   The regulations of Mechanical Integrity were created with the intention of keeping facilities, their workers, and the surrounding community safe. For the countless families that have experienced the impact of a mechanical failure first-hand, the measures set in place by the PSM standard have proven to be the difference between life and death.


Works Cited


Carmody, Carol. "Pipeline Accident Report." National Transportation Safety Board, 8 Oct. 2002.
            Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

"Why We Have Process Safety Management." OSHA Academy. Accessed 20 Feb. 2020.