Pushing the threshold: BPIR.com advice concerning process safety management.

February 18, 2010 by

While researching some BPIR.com related subject matter, I came accross this interesting bit of information which I thought was worth sharing on the Blog:

Ian Sutton [1] a process risk manager with U.S. AMEC Paragon believes that the root causes of safety and environmental problems are often economic. Managers can be subjected to relentless pressure to cut costs, while at the same time being expected to increase production rates, implement new initiatives, and to install new technology. This can lead to a mindset which crosses acceptable safety thresholds. The following six indicators are flags that thresholds are being challenged:

 

  1. Unrealistic stretch goals.  If an organization is stretched far enough major system failures are certain to occur.
  2. Excessive cost reduction demands. Managers being expected to "do more with less" can, over the long term, lead to the unsafe conditions being created.
  3. Belief that "it cannot happen here".  Catastrophic events are very rare and this contributes to an “I'll chance it" syndrome. Often managers and employees fail to distinguish between occupational safety and process safety.  In fact the actions needed to improve occupational safety, as measured by the number of lost-time accidents, are quite different from those needed to prevent catastrophic, low probability and low frequency events. Organisations that have often reported excellent day-to-day and month-to-month safety figures have been surprised when one of their plants has experienced a major incident.
  4. Overconfidence in regulatory compliance. Well crafted regulations, rules, codes and standards can also induce a false sense of confidence. These rules cannot anticipate the combinations of events that lead to catastrophic incidents most of which are unusual, even bizarre. Standards merely provide a framework for successful operational integrity. Detailed analyses must be also be carried out by facility managers and workers.
  5. Ineffective information flow. A recurrent finding in disaster research is that information concerning potential problems was actually available within an organisation but this was not communicated to the relevant decision-makers. One reason for this is that most people do not want to be the bearer of bad news. This leads to information being more and more diluted as it travels up the management chain.
  6. Ineffective auditing.  Good audits should attempt to identify the root causes behind any findings. Senior management should follow up the audit findings by reviewing the audit, the audit process, and the audit follow-up in detail. This also provides an opportunity to examine improvements required within management systems.

Economic and business factors commonly exert pressure on an organisation’s leaders; however this must never be allowed to interfere with its proactive safety culture.
[1] R10830 Sutton, I., (2009), Should Your Organization Fly Warning Flags?, Chemical Engineering Progress, Vol 105, Iss 12, pp 22-26, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New York

 Members may read the full article which provides further excellent advice concerning process safety management.

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