By | December 3, 2021

There’s a reason you don’t see many “positive” articles in the media about safety. When things go smoothly, safety doesn’t warrant much attention. Still, we love those days when safety is working properly and smoothly because that means people, assets and, ultimately, reputation are being protected.

That’s the “news” Sphera likes to hear, but let’s take a peek at what other organizations think about safety in their companies.

First, the good news: In Sphera’s new Safety Report—which adds Health & Safety data to the previously reported Process Safety Management/Operational Risk Management (PSM/ORM) information—most participants (75%) say safety is an integral part of their organization’s corporate culture.

This is the exact type of information we wanted to understand when we first began conducting these surveys in 2015. Were businesses instituting actionable changes to make their organization safer, and if so, how?

As part of the 2021 survey, Sphera asked 349 risk, process safety, and health and safety professionals, some of whom work in the most hazardous industries in the world about their companies’ plans to mitigate risk.

The verdict? There remains a significant gap between safety intent and the reality of what actually transpires at these businesses. Only 40% of respondents say their employer has a well-defined roadmap to improve safety performance. So, what’s causing the gap?

According to the 2021 survey, it’s limited resources (51%), conflicting priorities (43%) and limited budget (31%). Respondents also said they would like to operationalize their safety strategy but lack the resources to make it a reality.

What’s even more surprising is that 72% of organizations have the asset data in place but are simply not using that data to manage risk. Why not? That’s simple: Without the proper software solutions in place, you can have all the data imaginable but you won’t be able to use it to help prevent incidents or near-misses before they can occur.

Risk is part of our everyday reality, and that will never go away. Emergency shutdowns, leaks and deadly explosions continue to happen, such as this one in October, and one incident is too many. Besides the most concerning aspects of accidents involving loss of life and injuries as well as damage to assets, etc., incidents can wreak havoc on productivity. We all know time is money, and a few years ago the Aberdeen Group quantified the cost of an hour of equipment downtime at a whopping $260,000.

What’s the bottom line? Being able to reliably and accurately leverage existing data means being able to help prevent incidents or near-misses before they can take place.

But the majority (56%) of respondents say that their critical safeguards and barrier data are tracked manually. That is, it is not being recorded in a widely accessible way that can be assessed, managed and leveraged proactively. We often talk about data silos, and this speaks directly to that. Handwritten records and spreadsheets are still all-too common in ORM and PSM, but organizations must understand that—with the world watching—compliance is not enough. Two-thirds of respondents (68%) said their organizations are still using paper-based systems or office applications (such as Excel, Word, etc.) to identify and track risk. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is not just for investors anymore; there are many stakeholders, including customers, who want to see that organizations are going above and beyond to ensure the safety of workers, assets and, ultimately, reputation.

We still see a disconnect between a desire to institute process safety procedures and making it happen. While collecting data is important, it doesn’t have much value if it cannot be made actionable. You could have the nicest vehicle in the world, but it wouldn’t do you any good if you weren’t able to get it the fuel or power it needs to run.

Based on all this information, you would assume that very few organizations are measuring their safety data in real time, and you’d be right. Only 19% of organization’s surveyed say safeguards are monitored in real time. While catastrophic events are rare, that doesn’t mean they don’t happen, so being able to track safeguards in real time could help prevent a risk pathway from developing.

Improving safety culture takes the collective efforts of everyone in an organization, but it also requires a scalable solution that won’t get lost in the shuffle of papers (literally) and expert insights. The surveyed participants know this.

A Better View

Businesses need a true view of the operational reality by extracting, translating and aggregating the data from sensors, systems and human inputs. In other words, it requires a single platform that can bring all their disparate data sources together and provide the actionable insights necessary to mitigate risk.

Sphera’s suite of ORM solutions do just that. They enable operators to establish a unified strategy for their control of work and risk management processes.

Sphera’s Control of Work system, for one, allows organizations to stay on top of risk in real time with predictive and prescriptive capabilities, allowing businesses to manage activities and risk in a unified way. This means connecting disparate data from your existing IT and business application ecosystem to create a single, shared view of the operational reality. It also means having control over the standardization of processes and ensuring that information from permits, risk assessments and isolations are aligned to improve efficiency.

Sphera’s Advanced Risk Assessment software identifies, assesses and controls the impact of the operational risk by being proactive. The solution helps organizations identify the small and unexpected failures before they become big problems. Organizations that leverage Sphera are given access to prebuilt, out-of-the-box and configurable templates to uncover those hidden risks and security gaps in a consistent and standardized format.

That’s the kind of news we like to hear.