Training also can generate a degree of awareness, which leads not just to an environment of acceptance but also to a more proactive appeal for support throughout the organization. This requires a demonstration of the overall business value of front-end loaded EH&S integration as well as the value to individual professionals in making it happen.
Using resources efficiently
Thorough implementation of MERITT might require slightly more resources up front in the process development cycle, but that requirement will be more than offset by reduced resource requirements later in the development cycle ," along with significant operating cost savings. In addition, the expenditure of additional resources in the early stages of process development can help ensure MERITT does not have any negative impact on the overall schedule.
When a process is designed following the principles of inherent safety and pollution prevention, a broad array of cost savings, particularly on the staffing and administrative side, is expected. In addition, the need for initial and ongoing training should be reduced, both for a given individual and for the total number of people requiring training. This situation results from fewer hazardous operations, less severe conditions where hazards remain, and fewer regulatory requirements because of the less hazardous nature of the process. These same changes in the process also will result in fewer personal protective equipment requirements, leading to even greater training cost savings.
Other benefits include:
Less time spent on EH&S issues. Although EH&S issues are not traditionally included in the early stages of current process development processes, a lot of time is still spent on these issues. Despite the time spent, project managers might still worry about the things they do not know or understand (due, in part, to little EH&S training) that could cause problems in the future. By integrating MERITT into process development, project managers should find themselves spending less time worrying about unknown EH&S issues and more time using EH&S information to make better decisions.
Fewer processes to manage and results to interpret. Once MERITT becomes routine, the total number of separate evaluations embedded within the development process should decrease, along with the quantity of independent results. The path to using the information in decision-making should be much more straightforward.
Better measurement of process performance. Integrated EH&S metrics and the use of EH&S metrics concurrently with other performance measures should provide a much better picture of the predicted performance for a new process or for different alternatives under consideration.
Clearer roles and responsibilities. Chances are that different team members are trying to introduce informally some consideration of EH&S at different points in the process, but their contributions are limited by their own past experience with these issues. They want to help, but they do not want to be considered experts in areas in which they really are not.
Integrating EH&S into process design improves the resulting process and offers new opportunities and more control to the individuals involved in such efforts.
Bendixen is a vice president with ICF Consulting Services LLC, Cambridge, Mass. She can be reached at lbendixen@ icfconsulting.com.
*With the input of AIChE's Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) and Center for Waste Reduction Technology (CWRT).
**This article is based on the publication Making EHS an Integral Part of Process Design, by Arthur D. Little Inc. (American Institute of Chemical Engineers, New York, 2001). Figures and text drawn from this publication are reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.
Example: Process Definition Stage
Once the basic concept has been identified, overall optimization of the core process usually is undertaken. In the process definition stage, attention shifts to finalizing the process technologies to be used and defining the basic operating parameters for the unit operations. The principal process equipment also is finalized. This usually entails pilot-scale or possibly prototype testing supported by process simulation.
At this point, a more diverse and interactive development team is needed, led by a process development engineer. By incorporating EH&S perspectives on the development team, often in person, some potential problematic EH&S issues can be avoided cost effectively and fairly easily, including:
Scale-up problems associated with raw material transport, storage and handling requirements.
Equipment that is hazardous or difficult to operate and/or maintain.
Occupational safety issues associated with certain process equipment or activities such as manual catalyst additions or filter press cleaning.
Excessive waste generation or water usage.
The emphasis at this stage, therefore, is on broadening the knowledge and experience brought to the design, primarily through the participation of EH&S professionals or through increased training for the various engineers involved in process development. Keeping the chemists involved through this stage to help identify and evaluate alternatives also can be critical.