When It Comes To Process Safety Management, Prepare For The Worst

Chemical and Petrochemical companies and refineries need to secure process safety management (PSM) processes to protect employees and reputations. To address this topic, marcus evans is hosting a Process Safety Management for Chem/Petrochem & Refineries Conference from April 11-13 at the Derek Hotel in Houston.

In addition to PSM issues, this event is said to allow attendees to discuss key challenges such as OSHA Standards and the National Emphasis Programs (NEP), and reaching a conclusion on the definition of Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices (RAGAGEP).

Suzanne Janicki, process safety coordinator and team leader at BASF, Hannibal, Mo., sat down with marcus evans to answer a few questions about process safety management and how companies can stay compliant.  Janicki will also speak at the marcus evans event.
Can you explain some of the primary concerns for Process Safety Managers in chemical and refining companies at the moment?

At the unit level, it really is about assuring the right culture. Process safety management is all about individuals and how they conduct their operations. When considering primary process safety concerns, it is important to focus on both the work process and the primary safe guards of the process. At the unit level, helping the operations personnel incorporate process safety through awareness into "the way in which they work" to assure constant vigilance with items such as management of change and process hazard analyses is key to preventing the series of small events which can lead to a serious incident.

What are the key features of a successful PSM program?

The fundamental key is living process safety in everyday operations for all chemical and refining operations, from the small daily decisions on how to conduct a maintenance inspection through the large decisions of changing process design. If individuals feel they can operate outside the "specifications" of their job tasks, over a period of time there will be an increase in incidents and issues. Many companies have excellent documented guidance and structure around the 14 process safety management elements. Living those elements on a daily basis with small changes and decisions is key to assuring success; from how routine maintenance is conducted to communicating from one shift to another can mean the different between success and failure. When "how the work gets" done is reviewed, if there are any hand-offs of information or decisions where the workforce says "and then a miracle occurs," those are the priority things that need to be resolved to assure safe operating practices. The program cannot be viewed as a regulatory process, but rather the "how" a unit operates.

How can process safety be built into the overall culture of a company?

We always hear the words "it starts with management commitment." Although this is a very important part of the culture in providing resources such as people and money for process safety know-how, equipment and processes, it is really about visible action. Allowing leadership at all levels in support of process safety is key. When an operator asks for safety changes in job tasks as simple as better sample management, off loading raw materials etc., there needs to be action on those suggestions for improvement within the discipline of process safety. This builds confidence in an understanding of safety as an expectation of operating the plant, not just operating the plant safely. Assuring that operators, contractors, engineers, procurement, logistics, etc., have an understanding that safety is the "way in which you work" and celebrating those examples on an ongoing basis establishes culture. Working on and continuously building safety leadership skill sets in everyone at all levels of the organization builds process safety culture and ultimately on-going success.

What are the critical success factors for optimum NEP compliance?

It is important to think of NEP compliance similar to a product specification. The elements of a product specification are set to provide a product through the efforts of multiple functions and people. The parameters to make quality product are identified and the process is controlled within these parameters. The product is tested by a series of quality tests, packaging is critical in customer satisfaction, the perception of product quality and ultimately how well the product works. The elements of process safety management are in essence the compliance specification for operations. Cross-functional work process management on an on-going basis assures operating within those requirements. NEP compliance isn't just a document, notebook or a list, it is how those documents, lists, and notebooks are established and used as a part of on-going safe efficient and effective operations. Assure there is an understanding of how operating units work and then use those work practices to incorporate process safety compliance "specs" NEP compliance includes everyone implementing "Plan, Do, Check, Act" to keep managing within compliance, not against compliance. 

What lessons in process safety standards can the chem/petrochem industry take from recent incidents and disasters in this area?

Staying diligent to operating discipline and continuing to review any change in a different way is key. Make no assumptions about what won't happen, assume up front something bad will happen. No question or scenario is too dumb. It is key to assure questions are answered with logic and as best possible data driven knowledge. Most of the recent tragic incidents are a series of little items, decisions, or assumptions that led to unfortunate synergistic effects.  Always start with the assumption something will happen, then determine the best ways, whether new process design, safeguards, programming, administrative controls, etc., to assure a tragedy never will happen at your plant. Finally, assure there are lagging and leading metrics associated with your process safety program. Measuring how the program is doing and predicting the success assures continuous improvement.

Join Janicki, along with speakers from OSHA, The Dow Chemical Co., Total Petrochemicals Inc., NOVA Chemicals Inc., Delek Refining, Ltd., at this two-day event.

For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/gvfbwO.


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