By | March 19, 2019

The theme for the Center for Chemical Process Safety Technical Steering Committee (CCPS TSC), which was held at the Hotel Fraser Suites in New Delhi was safety culture. Ian Thorpe, the vice president of health and safety at Hindustan Mittal Energy Ltd. discussed what safety culture means to him and HPCL -Mittal Energy limited (HMEL). “Safety culture is what you do when nobody is looking,” he said.

This was the first time I attended a CCPS event, and it was refreshing because it was one of the few occasions I’ve witnessed where people responsible for Process Safety Management (PSM) and maintaining the safety performance in their organizations spoke openly in a forum without holding back on the issues and challenges they face daily. Note that I choose the words “people responsible for PSM” rather than PSM team. The reason is that, there was a healthy recognition among the TSC participants that maintaining PSM standards and high safety performance is not the responsibility of one team, but that it is a shared responsibility that everyone within the organization is responsible for shouldering.

It was a pleasure to meet Shakeel Kadri, CCPS’ executive director, and to hear him speak. He opened the session with a message for all organizations attending the session to share their incidents and case studies so other organizations can learn from them. He also acknowledged how Sphera joined the CCPS and how we are continually proving our commitment to providing the tools necessary for organizations to improve their safety performance.

There were two sessions that drove a host of conversations. The first was led by Sushant Chaturvedi, member of the Safety & Operational Risk group at Reliance Industries Ltd., and the other was led by Hirak Dutta, the head of safety at Nayara Energy.  Sushant shared what RIL is hoping to achieve in the risk management space through Integrated Operations Management. Sushant and his team were keen to identify more areas of Process Safety that can be enhanced at RIL and use digital solutions to improve the frontline efficiency.

The key takeaway was that there needs to be a platform application that can bring together information that is relevant to every level of the organization and be used in a simplified manner for decision-making.

The discussions then moved to the topic of managing Process Safety and the challenges that leadership faces. Hirak took a case-study-based approach to identifying lessons learned from some recent incidents and accidents. Some important issues that Hirak addressed were:

  • Most (84 percent) of incidents occur because of poor execution of standard operating procedures.
  • Many incidents and near-misses are caused by improper application of permit to work systems.
  • There are many challenges for implementing company policies by frontline teams.
    • One of the main reasons for this, at least in India, is because of the diverse backgrounds in the workforce.
    • Safety culture best practices are still not instilled into each individual worker, especially when contractors are used.
    • Valuable lessons are learned and stored in repositories, but are not easily accessible for use during work execution.
    • Risk Assessment for work orders are not meet the safety standards that are needed.

All the highlighted issues resonated with all participants. From our experience at Sphera we can acknowledge that these challenges are not special to India  as organizations around the globe face similar challenges to maintain or improve safety performance.

Vivek Bichave vice president of safety and Operational Risk at Reliance, explained that many of the root causes of the incidents in the case studies that were discussed involved improper execution of Management of Change (MOC) procedures and that the industry as a whole needs to improve this. There is a need for educating the frontline teams on following the right safety operating procedures based on the MOC.

We at Sphera have noticed that implementing MOC and managing the lifecycle of the MOC is a challenge for many organizations. The biggest challenge is when temporary MOCs tend to become “permanently temporary” and organizations and workforces lose sight of this, which causes an impairment to a critical safety barrier on the asset. Ensuring Operational Risk is managed effectively within an organization is often a big challenge.

The refining and petrochemical industry in India has different levels of maturity in the implementation of digital technologies for Operational Risk Management. The key reason for this is that, even though many of these refineries fall under the national oil companies of India, some have a larger capacity and some are much smaller. Traditionally, it has been a challenge to implement consistent digital solutions across the board, but with the advent and maturity of enterprise software solutions and digital platform solutions these challenges can be overcome.

In Part 2 of this blog, I will talk more about the culture aspect and how the industry participants view the next stage of PSM leaders to take things forward.