Raising the Bar on Performance

Applauding Responsible Care's overachievers

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And that involvement is paying off: A subsequent Lonza survey showed that the community knew who the company was and what it did. "We have a really good relationship with the township officials and the leaders," Sieracki stresses. "Anytime they need something or some support or some involvement, they contact us."

Based on the facility's strong relationships with the community and police department, the plant was selected by the county to host a drill last year that recreated and managed an emergency situation.

"We usually have at least one drill per year with our local township," explains Sieracki, "and there are a couple of local fire companies that are involved. Because we have a site that can accommodate that and we are interested in practicing, the township contacted the county when the county was looking to test their communications systems."

The large-scale drill involved a number of different witnesses, says Sieracki. "We had different townships here; we had Montgomery County officials; we had EPA and also the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency," he says. "[The drill] was mostly around communications ," that seems to always be the struggle, to communicate what's going on and get the right response, and keep everybody informed."

Sieracki terms the drill ," which simulated a material spill and subsequent vapor generation ," a huge success. "We simulated the vapor's going out into the community," he notes, "so we had not only response here, but we also had some response in the community."

Boosting process safety

The Process Safety Code aims to prevent fires, explosions and accidental chemical releases. Any one of these occurrences could have catastrophic consequences for a plant and its personnel.

From CEO to line operator, Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. takes its commitment to this code very seriously. Although it recently added five chemical plants to its business portfolio, the company still managed to reduce its total number of process safety incidents.

"In the process safety world, we're really trying to take Responsible Care to the next level," explains Deborah

Donovan, the company's manager of health and safety services. "We're really trying to integrate it into what we call operations excellence' ," basically, it's the marriage of excellence; health, environmental and safety performance; and our financial performance. You can't have one without the other."

Sunoco has a network ," called the Process Safety Forum ," made up of process safety coordinators, says Donovan. "There's a person or sometimes more than one person at each facility who coordinates all the process safety efforts," she says. "[We] bring those folks together face to face twice a year, and then we do some interim conference calls and review what we call best practices. That's kind of our internal benchmarking, where one facility has something they're really proud of and it's really improved their performance. They then present it to the group, and then the folks will strive to implement that best practice at their facility so we can keep raising the bar on our performance throughout the company."

Sunoco also uses the forum to conference and network externally, says Donovan, to keep current on new process safety developments and incorporate those of interest into its internal program.

The company takes advantage of some process analysis tools to assist in its efforts, and also is instituting measurement systems to evaluate process safety performance.

"We've been gathering information to try to get to the point where we are looking at leading indicators rather than looking back in the rearview mirror," says Donovan. "We've been working hard on trying to measure our performance in a different way that will get that forward thinking ," to try to manage activities before they actually become an incident or become an issue. It's been a challenge because it's somewhat uncharted out there in history. We are doing some benchmarking, meeting with other companies to try to find out how other folks do this sort of thing, but we've done some work internally as well."

The company is taking a hard look at near misses, notes Donovan. "That's really the base of the [commonly used] risk pyramid. If you can eliminate those things at the base of the pyramid ," that unsafe act or unsafe condition, then that incident or that injury will not happen," she stresses. "So we are aggressively looking at near misses. We do have a root cause analysis/incident investigation program throughout our company that we use to investigate not only incidents, but near misses as well."

The inherent challenge with the Process Safety Code, as well as many of the other codes, says Donovan, is that the job is never really finished. "We're really happy with the progress we've made thus far, but are always challenging ourselves to get better," she says. "Not only to get better, but to sustain the improvements we've made thus far."

Protecting employees

Designed to safeguard and promote the health and safety of chemical facility employees and visitors, the Employee Health and Safety Code calls on companies to make continuous improvements to workplace health and safety. Wickliffe, Ohio-based Lubrizol Corp. has been perfecting a process to do just that.

Termed the Lubrizol Safety and Health Excellence Process, it echoes the company's resolve to include additional management practices not incorporated into the original code. See Fig. 1. The multistage process provides a mechanism for world-class performance in the safety and health arena, encouraging proactive management upstream by emphasizing the safety system or process instead of the injury after the occurrence.

 

Figure 1. Excellence Process

 

 

"It's pretty easy for everybody to say they're committed," says Pete Lubs, Lubrizol's corporate code steward for the Employee Health and Safety Code, "but we want to work toward management's leading in the areas of employee health and safety, as well as becoming more involved in the health and safety process."

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