One of the fundamental truths about operational risk management is that process safety plays an essential role in keeping people, assets and, ultimately, reputation safe.
That is why the recently published “Process Safety Fundamentals”—a guide to help companies reduce and hopefully eliminate fatalities and high-severity events related to process safety—from the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP) is so important.
The process safety guidance includes fundamental best practices, such as “walk the line,” “sustain barriers” and “control ignition sources,” among other recommendations.
Sphera process safety expert Simon Jones discussed the fundamentals earlier this year in a SpheraNOW podcast, and Simon mentioned a key piece of data at the time: that 91% of “the fatalities in the oil and gas industry relate to one or more of these 10 key process safety fundamentals.”
Thankfully major accident hazards are uncommon, but they do continue to happen as we see in the Marsh “100 Largest Losses in the Hydrocarbon Industry” report. And if you thought these large losses are simply tales from yesteryear, think again. Eight of the 20 largest incidents on the list took place between 2010 and 2019, including four combined in 2018 and 2019 totaling almost $3 billion in losses. It’s the biggest losses we’ve seen since 1988 and 1989.
Most major incidents cannot be attributed to one thing. More often than not, a series of events—or a risk pathway—developed from things like maintenance issues, turnaround delays, shift handover problems, etc. Many companies still rely on spreadsheets and paper records to track their process safety initiatives, but it’s not a strategy for preventing incidents. Not only are any potential insights trapped in mounds of data, but also what happens when experienced process safety workers leave the company?
“The exodus of an aging workforce has created a huge issue around how industry will meet its critical need of process safety knowledge transfer,” wrote Shakeel Kadri, the CEO of the Center for Chemical Process Safety, in the 2020 Marsh report. “This issue needs a holistic improvement approach, including enhanced education of process safety engineering education, effective assimilation of process safety knowledge for early career industry professionals, and ongoing reinforcement of process safety training in the workforce.”
We agree wholeheartedly, but we would add the only way to alleviate that kind of pressure would be through a combination of data and software that can get the right information to the right people at the right time anytime. Through integrated risk management solutions, companies can also get the predictive and prescriptive information they need to make smarter business decisions. After all, you can learn from incidents and near-misses that occur, but—it goes without saying—you can never prevent something from happening that has already happened.
Especially in today’s marketplace where regulators are watching, employees are watching, and communities and the world are watching and sharing information on social media, it’s critical for companies to keep their people, assets and property safe.
Sphera’s Process Safety Management solutions have been the industry standard for decades, but we are continuing to raise the bar with innovations to products like Control of Work to include interactive piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), new Permit to Work functionality and more.
Independent research firm Verdantix recently named Sphera a market leader for process safety management for a reason. As the report states, “Sphera offers substantial chemical compliance and risk management capabilities for process safety activities. The main driver for this strong score is the SpheraCloud module.”
We all have a role to play in creating a safer, more sustainable and productive world, and, especially in hazardous industries, the importance of process safety cannot be underestimated. Having insight into what could go wrong before it does was previously not possible. And any process safety initiative that doesn’t benefit from predictive and prescriptive insights is, well, fundamentally flawed.