With more than 35 years in the chemical manufacturing industry, Sphera Director of Solution Consulting Greg Staples has always focused on collaborating with customers to enhance safety measures, streamline permitting processes and optimize operational efficiency in international organizations.

Based on his experience in digitalizing process safety management systems, Greg now helps Sphera’s customers reduce overhead costs, improve accuracy and elevate communication within their teams.

In this video, Greg outlines how you can improve process safety management through digital tools. As someone who has worn a hard hat and had boots on the ground, he understands the chemical industry and its day-to-day work in a profound way. His expert advice and insights can help your company drive operational excellence.

Improve visibility and achieve consistency

When companies integrate digital technologies for mitigating risks and improving safety performance, they gain a holistic view of all tasks. Real-time planning tools present an enormous advantage over paper-based systems, Greg says. Operators can visualize what is happening on site, reduce permitting time and achieve consistency when creating work orders. Most importantly, operators and crews have everything they need, from lessons learned to relevant attachments, all in one place.

Make benefits clear to everyone

For any new digital system, gaining management support up front is essential, advises Greg. To ensure widespread user adoption of digital tools for process safety management, the benefits to all levels of the organization must be clear. Operators will quickly recognize that the system supports their work. Involving middle managers from the start helps win them over. To overcome the hurdles of shift work, he says, designate experts to run the process, rotating through until everyone has received training.

Develop and follow a digital roadmap

To make sure a company’s system is scalable to accommodate growth and adapt to change, Greg recommends assembling the right team to develop a digital roadmap. This helps avoid duplication of effort. Of course, when introducing digital processes, involving IT from the start is essential. Additionally, he advises companies to watch for innovation and to consider how they can implement new developments.

Watch our video now to get additional insights from Greg. Learn how to reduce overhead costs, improve accuracy and elevate communication with digital process safety management.

Sphera Director of Solution Consulting Greg Staples


Hello. I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Greg Staples. 

I’ve worked in the chemical manufacturing industry for over 35 years as an operator, and then moving into several managerial roles, including maintenance manager, manufacturing manager, lean manager, materials management manager and finally, special projects manager for digitalization. 

This varied experience has given me a holistic perspective of change, as well as the privilege of collaborating with various organizations and levels of management to enhance safety measures, streamline permitting processes and optimize the operational efficiency. 

As subject matter expert of digitalization processes, including safety management systems for Sphera, my focus has always been on increasing safety, reducing costs, improving accuracy and elevating the overall communication with teams. I am passionate about driving productivity and fostering positive operator interactions and look forward to sharing my insights and discussing how we can help your organization achieve operational excellence. 

Question 1: How has integrating digital technologies impacted overall safety performance and risk mitigation in your organization’s process safety management system? 

As you move into the digital solutions, what you’re going to find is you get a holistic view of the work that’s going to be done out in the field. In the old way, it was pieces of paper, disparate information and different units within a site, not necessarily knowing what was going on. With the digital system, you can view everything that’s happening in real time. And with the planning tool that the Sphera tool has, you can actually identify if there’s too much work in one area and conflicting work and be able to have those discussions in a visual way to see what is really happening on site. 

The other thing that you get out of this is a reduced time to get the permitting done. And you do that through the copying of permits, suspending of permits, templates, those types of things. And what that does is it gives you a consistency. So, your contractors, when they go from unit to unit or site to site, they will understand what they’re seeing and that saves you having to do a lot more explanation of what they’re looking at. 

And then, probably one of the big things is the ability to have all that information in one place. So, if you copy a permit, you’d get lessons learned from the last time that that permit was used. Or if you had attachments or anything like that, you actually have that view from the last time that it was done. That, in itself, gives you something that you don’t get with those pieces of paper. 

Question 2: What strategies effectively ensure widespread user adoption and competency in utilizing digital tools for process safety management amid their complexity? 

You need to get management support. And to do that, you need to understand what your company’s goals are, as far as for safety and for other things, right? Because you need to make this a very measurable process, because anything that isn’t measured won’t be done. For that, you need to make sure that you’re showing the benefits of the system, of the process that you’re bringing into place. And you also need to have a lot of discussion with your middle managers. 

Everybody talks about operators being difficult to deal with and upper management being difficult to deal with. That’s not the case. If you show an operator something that’s going to make his life better in the long run and he can see that, that’s not going to be a problem. 

The problem that you have in a lot of cases is, you have the production manager or the middle manager, and he’s getting things coming from above, getting things coming at him from below. So, he’s got to sit there and measure all this stuff and say, “How do I get all this done?” What I would say is you need to make sure you get those people involved up front. 

When we were doing a project, they gave us the people to set the criteria, but then needed to go back and—I didn’t do this and I wish I would have—I needed to go back and say, “OK, this is a criteria that was set. How do you feel about this?” 

And make sure that they were on board at each step of the process because it’s very important to the middle manager. He can make or break the process. Along with that, you need to show the benefits at all levels. And then you need to create the proper training. 

You need to ensure that prior to go-live that you’re going into their system. Before you go live, that you get the shifts together, and you work through the solution on a computer, so that everybody knows and then you need to be there for the go-live. We were in the plants for seven to 10 days for the go-lives, just to make sure—if they’re having any issues or anything like that—they need to understand that they’re going to have support. Otherwise, it’s going to be a problem. 

And then I can think the final thing that you need to understand or remember is that when you have rotating shifts and you have four shifts—and people are on for three, off for four; they’re working inside; they’re working outside or whatever that might be—that could be five weeks where they don’t touch a system. Well, that’s a problem, because if you don’t use a newly learned skill within five weeks, you lose it, right? And it becomes a problem. 

So, what I would recommend is that you would have two people per shift that would be trained until they got it down very well. Then you move one of them and then you bring somebody else from the shift in and have them train on it until they’re very good. And then you move that other person back. And that way, everything keeps going through as far as the training goes. 

Question 3: In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, how does your organization ensure that the digital solutions implemented for process safety management are scalable to accommodate growth and adaptable to emerging industries, trends and technologies? 

I think the biggest thing you need to have is a focused team, right? You can’t have this site doing it this way, this site asking that, or this unit—or even if it’s a smaller site—you can’t have this person doing this and this person doing that. It really needs to be focused. 

So, put together the right team. And that right team should start working on putting together a digital road map. And in that digital road map, what you want to make sure is that everything you’re working on is going towards the digital goal for your company. The reason for that is you don’t want duplication of effort, right? 

You want to make sure that communication is flowing, so that your IT knows what’s going on. Because it’s very important for you to get IT involved right away with any new process, just to make sure that they don’t have any security issues; they understand how the process is going to work; what digital tools are they using to get this work done. 

And you need to understand how the processes work, so that as new things come, you can say, “You know what? I know how that’ll tie in.” You take a look at digital plant. How could digital plant tie in to safety? Well, you start getting into interactive P&IDs. 

And when you make a change to the digital plant, you make a change to the P&IDs that are in the safety system. Huge. It’s a huge, huge opportunity there, right? And then you need to keep up with the new innovations in the marketplace. And you do that by going to conventions or customer webinars, but you really need to start looking at what’s going to be possible in the future, as well as what’s possible now and how are those going to tie in together. 

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