Process Safety: Walk The Line

Company-wide initiative eliminates operator line-up errors

By Jerry J. Forest, Celanese

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One way to change this culture is to apply the proper initial training and then follow-up with frequent reinforcement of the expectation that operators must know with 100% certainty where energy will flow each time they make a change to the process. From a corporate perspective, we produced and distributed a number of tools designed to raise the awareness of this expectation. These include:

1. Two-day regional workshop meetings with front-line supervisors that reinforce conduct of operation tools for continuity of operations and operational readiness.

2. Periodic newsletters distributed in native languages across the globe describing Walk the Line expectations and tools.

3. Toolbox presentations of actual incidents caused by line-up errors. These presentations aim to enable front-line supervisors to open dialogs with operators on “what would you do” to prevent the incident. (For details on novel, just-launched interactive safety training tools, see “Achieve Better Safety Training.”)

4. Standard Walk the Line training packages that can be used as is or modified for a site’s individual needs.

5. Short corporate videos that, as part of our process safety lessons learned program, help reinforce the message of Walk the Line.

After three years of raising awareness and setting the expectation, we continue to use terms such as “Walk the Line incident” when describing line-up errors to remind the organization of expectation for energy control.

Continuity of Operation and Operational Discipline. In the early phases of Walk the Line, the most common question from operators was “Do we have to physically walk the line each time we make a change?” The answer is, if you don’t know with 100% certainty where the material will flow, then yes. However, several tools can help operators grasp the present operating state of a processing unit. Understanding the current line-up and changes to the line-up is one aspect of continuity of operations. The tools are called operational discipline tools because they introduce a discipline to operations that encourages repeatability in results [2].

The operational discipline tools used include: shift instructions, shift notes, expectations of shift relief, shift meetings, and operator evaluation sheets with both informal and formal rounds. Each incorporates the Walk the Line theme through a dedicated section that describes in checklist format common and uncommon situations that give rise to changes in the unit that might lead to a line-up error. Shift supervisors have an opportunity to reinforce the expectation for Walk the Line when they write shift instructions. Highlighting potential line-up issues when discussing the current jobs on shift at the toolbox or shift meeting provides another opportunity. Operators can communicate the changes made on shift by citing them in shift notes, and using these shift notes during shift relief. Each site is expected to define an informal and formal evaluation route and train operators on what to look for during the equipment evaluation. In addition, evaluation round sheets should include location of critical bleeders, valve positions and other critical line-ups so that operators check them each time they make their rounds.

As noted, these tools share a common element — a pre-defined Walk the Line checklist. It must be completed and communicated, regardless of whether a change has been made. This repetition helps build the culture of Walk the Line. Figure 3 shows an example checklist for operator shift notes used during shift relief. This checklist identifies those activities that lead to changes in line-up. These changes are communicated between and among shifts, with confirmation of review required. Operators returning to duty must give positive verification since the last review.

Another class of aids to help operators understand the current operating state of a unit involves design tools. For example, a process to identify critical bleeders will highlight those points in the process that must have a bleed valve shut with a plug to prevent an LOPC incident. At Celanese, some sites paint these critical bleeders a recognizable color (Figure 4) and have the operator inspect them during evaluation rounds.

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