2019 PSM/ORM Survey: Who Is Shouting the Loudest?

2019 PSM/ORM Survey: Who Is Shouting the Loudest?

By Sphera’s Editorial Team | November 20, 2019

Transparency and good data are on the forefront of Industry 4.0 priorities, according to the 2019 survey on Process Safety and Operational Risk Management. Why? Perhaps safety leaders are tired of being caught up in the feeling that capital is allocated to whoever shouts loudest or whatever new thing is shiniest.

The 2019 survey, the industry’s fourth, uncovers how companies are battling multiple challenges from reduced headcount, a brain drain as talent retires, aging assets and feedstock price fluctuations that keep uncertainly rolling. In this environment, it’s more important than ever to translate process safety and risk management intentions into best practice.

However, despite positive signs coming from investments in regulatory compliance and corporate safety standards, only 40% of respondents say organizations proactively manage process safety. What’s more, a surprising 73% say companies are not actively managing risk or driving PSM through the planning process.


More than half of the respondents (55%) said there is resource tension between safety-related projects and other capital project allocation. Limited resources, conflicting priorities and tight budgets could be the reason why, in a typical month, only 66% of scheduled safety-critical maintenance and 69% of scheduled asset integrity inspections are achieved.

As an outsider looking into the hazardous industries, this is scary stuff. Safety leaders are suggesting most organizations cannot proactively manage risk, and they are falling further and further behind in safety-critical equipment (SCE) maintenance and inspections.

Safety and risk leaders know what’s lurking in the gaps between intent and reality: the potential for major accident hazard (MAH) risk exposure, operations inefficiencies and unplanned downtime. Maybe process safety and Operational Risk leaders need to shout a little louder to ensure that 100% of SCE maintenance and inspection are viewed as reasonable targets within their organizations. Or maybe safety leaders need new ways of communicating process safety to nontechnical people.

A recent webinar hosted by Chemical Processing and iChemE suggested hazards, likelihoods and consequences need more than quantitative risk assessment numbers. Afterall, how many of the other functional department heads contending for spend understand what it means when “the risk of fire from overfill is 1 x 10-4 , and we have designed the following combination of passive plus active instrumented systems plus procedural protections to reduce this risk to an acceptable level. Therefore, the health and upkeep of all these defined safeguards is critical.”

Organizations need tools that clearly communicate critical operating information in a way that makes sense and supports investment priority, e.g.: “We need to install overfill protection on the tank because, if we don’t, there’s a possibility that it will overfill. We fill this tank five times a day. If overfill happens, we could have a fire and explosion that would damage the tank and hurt many workers.”

The trouble is that many organizations are operating without the right tools. Only 10% of companies have deployed integrated digital solutions, and almost 75% are operating with siloed data and piecemeal insights. Organizations can’t act if they don’t know or don’t understand their risk exposure.

The positive news coming out of this year’s survey, industry leaders with digital vision are looking toward Integrated Risk Management solutions to manage the asset integrity inspection backlog (48%), track the status of SCEs and display barrier impairments (41%), and calculate cumulative risk (34%). In particular, Digital Twins that provide the ability to simulate what-if scenarios (58%), new process safety key performance indicators/metrics, and a single, shared view of the operational reality for everyone (57%) are all on the digital horizon.

Perhaps these IRM 4.0 advances will give operators the insights they need to prioritize and plan in a way that contributes to a safer, more sustainable and more productive world.

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Sphera is the leading provider of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance and risk management software, data and consulting services with a focus on Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability (EHS&S), Operational Risk Management and Product Stewardship.
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