Trish And Traci Podcast Hero 63403b85d0264

Podcast: Unique Program Delivers Safer Workplace

July 12, 2022
Employee engagement creates positive safety attitudes and reveals why procedures are in place -- even if they might seem a little bit bureaucratic.


Traci: Welcome to Process Safety With Trish & Traci, the podcast that aims to share insights from past incidents to help avoid future events. I'm Traci Purdum, executive editor with Chemical Processing, and as always, I'm joined by Trish Kerin, the director of the IChemE Safety Centre. Today we’re also joined by Tony Bocek senior operations technician at bp Cherry Point refinery in Blaine, Washington. So I guess today's podcast is Process Safety with Trish, Traci and Tony.

Well, welcome to you both.

Trish: Thanks, Traci. Great to be here as always.

Tony: Thanks Traci. Thanks for having me on.

Traci: Trish, do you have me updates for us?

Trish: I just want to raise everyone's attention to the fact that a couple of weeks ago we saw a really significant incident occur in Jordan where a liquified chlorine tank was dropped as it was being loaded onto a ship. So it appears as though the slings broke. The latest reports I've seen is that the slings were not rated for the weight of the tank. It was lifting 25 tons of chlorine, and it's killed a number of people and sent hundreds to the hospital, really quite a significant incident. And if we think about inherently safer design, why were we lifting 25 tons of chlorine? Why weren't we lifting one-ton tanks instead of 25-ton tanks aside from the lifting issues itself, which obviously do need to be quite significantly investigated. So it's just a reminder that even what appear to be simple tasks, lifting a container onto a ship can have catastrophic consequences.

Traci: Absolutely. And I guess on a little bit lighter note -- Tony I know you were on vacation and you entered Yellowstone after a huge weather event. Tell us a little bit about that.

Tony: Yeah, my wife and children and I just spent two weeks with our travel trailer touring through the The Rocky Mountain states. And part of that was heading through Yellowstone national park, which there was, as you many have seen in the news, record snowfall followed by unprecedented rains, which led to massive flooding throughout southern Montana and into Yellowstone National Park. Bridges were washed out and entire towns were stranded because the access in and out over the rivers was ruined by the flooding. But by the time we got there, the park was in pretty good shape. The Northern loop of the national park for those that are familiar was still closed. But we had a great time venturing around the Southern part and that was three days of our two-week trip. So either way it was going to be good for us, but we didn't see a ton of the catastrophic damage where we were, but of course you can see it all over the news media and it was, it was something else.

Traci: The social media channels kept showing that full house going down a raging river there. So yeah, lots, lots mother nature is nothing to mess around with that's for sure.

Trish: Sounds like an amazing experience though. I've wanted to go to Yellowstone. I haven't yet had the opportunity.

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Tony: Yeah, I've been pretty fortunate. My father's side of my family actually comes from Wyoming -- they come from a line of coal miners and farmers in Northern Wyoming. And so I've been in Yellowstone oh, half a dozen times throughout my life, but this is the first time for my kids. So it was special.

Traci: Well, Tony, we asked you on board today because you recently highlighted a process safety program in the June issue of Chemical Processing (see: "Refinery Drives Engagement In Process Safety.") Can you give us a little bit of an overview of that program that you participated in?

Tony: As we are all aware in the United States, OSHA guidelines dictate process safety management and how that's undertaken here in the state of Washington. We have a very similar code as part of our Washington administrative code that governs process safety. And part of that is your employee participation element, which is having your frontline workers involved in your process-safety program at every critical point, whether that's a PHA or MOC processes, your training needs to be intact, and your frontline workers need to have a voice at the table for any of your process-safety management elements in your program at Cherry Point.

We do that, I think in a special way, because rather than going out and consulting with a frontline process operator, frontline maintenance technician from one of our shops on a a need-to-access basis, whenever instead of a one-off basis, we have a program where every operating area has a process safety management specialist, who is a, not only a process operator, a frontline process operator, but also is serving in a full-time role with the process safety management facilitation for their operating area.

And then the same in the maintenance shops where we have maintenance technicians whose normal day-to-day job would normally be whether they're a welder or a pipe fitter, or an instrument and electrical technician for a designated period of time, their fulltime job is process safety and PSM. And so working in Cherry Point, that's what I've understood, employee engagement or employee participation to be in PSM. And it wasn't until I spent a little time in one of those roles myself, and got to interact with some folks from neighboring refineries in my area that I saw it, it is a little bit unique to have people from the front lines, so dedicated to process safety as a full-time job with the intention that they will after a year or two go back to their normal role as an operator or maintenance technician.

Traci: Can you tell us a little bit about the assignment that you were given you personally were given?

Tony: Yeah, absolutely. So there's actually two assignments. One led into another. And so the initial assignment was as I mentioned, we have seven operating areas. I'm a process operator at the time I was in our reformer area. Each of those seven areas is responsible for multiple process units, as well as the control board for those units. And so my first assignment I was given after having been an operator for four years was I became that my reformer area process-safety specialist or PSM specialist. And so that role, I was responsible for procedure review and updating manual review and updating, I handled the management of change and, and projects that we facilitated. So I handled the MOC training packages for my operating area, as well as being the representative for PHAs through the HAZOP and LOPA process, as well as many of the findings that were coming out of that came out of the PHA.

So it basically was a, a single-point accountability for process safety coordination for my operating area. And then there were six other operators in the exact same role in the, the six other operating areas in the refinery. So that was my first two years in, in that process safety specific role. And then that rolled into another opportunity to serve as the operations process safety specialist for the entire refinery. So at Cherry Point, we've always had a history of having people come from operations or come from the maintenance shops into process safety. But historically that had always been a one-way street, an operator would go to the process safety team with the process-safety engineers in the tech department. And then they would take out a full-time role and not come back. So it wasn't really serving the purpose of having that frontline employee input into the team because their experience as frontline employees would wane and as they moved into full-time roles.

So I was actually the first to fulfill this new position, which was the operations process-safety specialist, where I served as the PSM liaison for the entire refinery. And I, I was able to work on things like sitewide policy and procedural updating. I was able to be the face of process safety among my fellow operators, as well as the maintenance technicians and be a liaison between the two teams. I don't know if you guys have experienced in some of your other facilities, but sometimes you can get a little bit siloed in your departments. And so my role was to break down those barriers and make sure that we were communicating very clearly from the frontline operators to your process, safety engineers and supervisors, and as well as within the maintenance shops,

Traci: Obviously having you in that role and, and moving along those silos and having someone that they can look at and realize that their peer helps in the communication. My question is, is you're not thrown into this role and know what to do. Was there any schooling that you needed to do, or did you work with folks within the facility that helped you fulfill all of these duties that you had?

Tony: Yeah. So in that area specific PSM specialist role, that first role I fulfilled I had a couple of months of cross training with my predecessor, who I was taking over for and which was studying PSM regulation, studying our site studying our site procedures regarding policy manual procedural, updating, how do we, the technical writing aspects of procedures and manuals and how to get that right. But really my biggest skill set in that first role was just my experience in the unit and my knowledge of our operating area. You know -- how to operate your unit, then writing the procedure of this is what we do, or this is what we should do is, is relatively easy. If you know your unit well in the secondary role, when I was embedded with the process safety engineers, there was a bit of a learning curve there.

I went through a training course and became qualified to facilitate PHA, which not only allowed me to facilitate some management of change HAZOPs on site, but it just gave me a much larger understanding of the HAZOP method and the PHA process and, and goal. So there was three parts. There was my self-study of process safety in the requirements of the role. There was some handover with peers who had more experience in these process safety roles than I did. And then there was some official training courses where I got, like I said, a certification in PHA facilitation as well as trained by our relief devices, engineers, and process safety engineers into some of the more nuts and bolts engineering on the PSM side.

Traci: Trish, have you heard of any similar programs at other facilities?

Trish: Well, I actually haven't heard of anything this extensive and detailed, and I'm really excited about this program because I think it has so many fantastic benefits. The closest I've ever heard of is, is really just dealing with that consultation aspect. That, so for example, in the jurisdictions I live in, we need to prepare a safety case and a safety case is a complete facility risk assessment every five years and you know, full assessment of your controls or barriers and the assurance on those and all those sorts of things. And the closest I've ever seen is either having an operator full time on the risk assessment aspect for us, which I've done myself or indeed having an operator full time assigned to a major project, such as a, a control system or a DCS changeover project I've seen happen as well, but I've never seen anything that has an ongoing life like this, where routinely people are offered this opportunity. They're trained, they fulfill that role on a full-time basis. And then as Tony said, the important part is they then take all of that knowledge back to their shift when they go back to shift work again. So I, I haven't seen something this detailed. I think it's a fantastic program. And the idea of it really excites me because I think it can lead to so many fantastic process safety improvements.

Traci: Absolutely. And, and as we're both discussing that this is a pretty well thought out program with a list of responsibilities for each assignment, Tony, what was it like to put on a different hat for a significant amount of time?

Tony: First and foremost, it was challenging in, in the best way possible, where I was able to develop some new skills and flex new muscles within the refinery. I knew my job as a process operator, but it gave me a chance to try some different things and learn a lot more about some aspects of refining that your frontline operators don't think of on a day to day basis. Process safety of course, is our job. And it it's the largest portion of what an operator does every day. But it's not something that we necessarily think about from a PSM regulation or process safety engineering standpoint. We think about safe reliant compliant operations. This is what we need to do to keep ourselves and our coworkers safe. We don't think about the process hazard analysis study of, of the unit we're running.

So it provided challenges, but in, in a really good way, the other piece was I personally found it very rewarding to be able to solve problems and, and develop solutions to help my fellow operators. I don't like to look at a us-and-them mentality inside our facility where there's the frontline operators, and then there's all the management and supervisors and engineers, our culture at Cherry Point doesn't really look at things that way. But at the end of the day, I, I am an operator. My team, my teammates are my fellow operators. And so I found it really rewarding to be able to help make their job better, make their lives better with my impact in process safety, whether that was hearing them ask for a change to a procedure or an update for more clarity of information in an operating manual, I was able to solve those problems for them. And then as I rolled into the refinery wide role, I was able to solve bigger problems. It had a larger impact for the entire site. And so that it was really exciting to be able to, to give back to your teammates in, in that unique way.

Traci: We're talking about all of the great benefits for this program, obviously, and letting workers be fully immersed in the role of process safety facilitator. Trish, can you go a little bit further and talk about the benefits that this type of program would bring?

Trish: So some of my thoughts on, on the advantages of this type of program are things like it it's really developing, not only a skill set in process safety amongst the people that undertake the roles like Tony. So they they've developed this skill set, PHA facilitator understanding the details of how the procedural update system works, understanding the PSM regulation a little bit deeper. He then takes that back into the shift work that he does. So he then can become almost an on-shift person that you know, is a little bit of an expert for his peers to turn to at a time when they have a question, but it also has other benefits. Some of the things I would see is it actually has an impact on the attitude of the people have to safety. When you've been given an opportunity in safety to do a serious and valuable role, it really starts to raise your awareness of what's important.

And I think it starts to change people's attitudes toward safety. I mean, I think we, we mostly all value safety. We all want to go home safe at the end of the day, we all want our families to be safe, but the value of safety doesn't always translate at work if we don't have the right attitude toward safety as well. And so what I mean by that is it's three o'clock in the morning and no one's watching. Do you take the shortcut or do you not take the shortcuts that really talks to how someone, their values of safety, but also their attitude toward safety. And I think this sort of program can have an amazing benefit in really creating some positive safety attitudes of why we do this thing that until you're involved in, it might seem a little bit bureaucratic and it's just delaying the process, but there's a really good reason for it.

We're doing it so that people are safe and that's the key benefit to bring it back to. And also just the other part of it that having people be able to go, “Hey, Tony, I'm not sure about this. Could you help me with this? Or is this a problem?” Or Tony actually seeing something that “Hey, I really don't think we should do it that way, because from what I've learned, this is a problem. I think we need to do it a different way.” So I think there's all those sorts of benefits that ultimately will lead to a greater safety culture and a more inclusive safety culture because of the immersive nature of the role. It does really. I have the potential to break down those silos that, that as Tony said we we've seen them in all sorts of businesses. There are silos as the businesses evolve and well, I don't work with you because you are from a different department. This really does break down those silos. And overall that delivers such an improvement in process-safety culture at a facility. So I think that in itself, just the safety culture improvement is, is enormous value, let alone all the other benefits that both Tony and I have mentioned

Traci: And the rotating having people rotate in and out of, of these roles and having more people on the floor that understand more operators that have been in this position. And now are back on the floor. Tony, you mentioned if you put somebody in that role full time, their experience wanes. So it's this rotation that really seems to be the crux of the success of this. Once the assignment is complete, what is it like to go back to business as usual? Is it business as usual anymore?

Tony: Well, that's a really good question. So there's a couple of, of aspects of that first being rotating back into doing the job of an operator is pretty seamless. One of the things -- I really appreciate both of your feedback of this seems like a well thought out program. And one of the elements that it doesn't really, I didn't really discuss in the article, but is the refresher training requirements of a person that leaves, leaves frontline operations for a role like this. It's maybe one of the most well thought out parts of this program is that we have to maintain our refresher training as operators. So we have to work a shift at the board every quarter, we have to work a shift outside every quarter. We have to maintain our training on MOC and, and procedure refresher training.

So when we come back to frontline operations, we weren't out of the game for two years, so to speak or in my case, it turned out closer to us three and a half. We weren't out of operations that entire time we were still working to maintain our skills. So that piece is pretty seamless, which made it really nice where you didn't feel like, okay, now I’ve got to come back and learn how to be an operator all over again. You know, the shift work part has its pluses and minuses going back to shift work. I know I'm touching on some superficial parts of the job, but anybody that's a shift worker can relate. You go to work in a straight days job for a few years and then go back to shift can be a blessing and a curse.

There's the, the tough schedule, but I got some weekdays off again, which was nice, but Trish already pointed on one of the best things about going back to business as usual was I didn't come back the same operator I left -- I came back with multiple years, where 100% of my focus was on process safety, making our PSM program better for our site, better for my fellow operators. And so then when I did come back on shift at two o'clock on a Saturday morning, when there was a process safety question, I was able to answer it and address it or able to help people find their answers. And there's multiple people who had served in a similar role like I did on in their unit or on their shift, who were able to address those questions because you know, quite often, if you have a, if you think of something and have a question at two o'clock in the morning and can't find your answer, you may not think of that question again. Uh, a week later when you're on a Monday day shift and have, and can speak with an engineer. So going back to business as usual, I guess I would say there, it wasn't business as usual, because I was a completely different, I was able to contribute in a completely new way as an operator.

Traci: Now not everyone is cut out for this program. There are skills that you need to go in with that can translate and help you excel at this type of program. Trish, can we talk about how that can impact the success or does it reinforce the success of those who are chosen in that role?

Trish: I think we need to make sure that with any role and I've spoken about organizational capability before as being about having the right people in the right roles at the right times and understanding that we need to build competence in that. So Tony's outlines how he had to train to take on this role. And he had to train to go back as an operator as well. And so that's a critical part of that organizational capability. And I think that can really set it up for success. I think there is going to be some people that would perhaps not be comfortable in the role or not, not feel that they have the baseline skills to do that role. Certainly in my experience, one of the things that that I would observe is that by the time an operator gets to the point of being a board operator, they have all the necessary skills that would be needed to do this sort of role because you actually need a lot of those skills to be a board operator.

The difference is though I think significant lifestyle change of going from shift work to going to full time Monday to Friday, but also the nature of the work would be quite different too. So as an operators, part of your job, is being outside and working outside with others, as opposed to all of a sudden working, spending a lot of time at a desk at a computer. So there's going to be some subtle changes around how people feel comfortable with the nature of the work, which I think needs to be just understood and acknowledged in it. This is probably not a job for everybody, a task for everybody to undertake, but I think it's a fantastic development task for as many people as possible to undertake. You know, one of the things that I discovered early on in my career was that the people that were operators typically love to be working with their hands, working outside, working on equipment, those sorts of things and maintainers as well, obviously.

And so you just need to make sure that, that we are not putting people in a position that not only is something there that they may struggle with from a, a skills perspective, but that actually, they just may not be comfortable in from a method of work. I've worked on shift operations. I prefer to work at a computer or speak to people, working with my hands is not something that really excites me. I have to admit. So for me, the idea of working at a desk is not a problem, but for other people it might be really quite a significant issue for them. So I think it's, it's around getting the people that are willing to try something new and try something different. And the level of support the training, the engagement, I just see that it really would actually make each person that goes through it far more valuable an employee if they can, if they can get through that assignment because you know, they do, they have this, not only this, this knowledge that they've learned, but they have this experience they've gained of working in a different part of the organization and seeing the different perspective, which I just think is absolutely invaluable.

Traci: Tony -- I'm not sure if you'll be able to answer this, but how did this program come about? Was this just bootstrapped? And they decided to try it out or is there a manual? What I'm getting at is how can our listeners maybe implement something similar at their own facility?

Tony: You're pretty insightful to say that you don't think I could answer that question. I actually tried to answer that question and asked around to some of the people who had been in the refinery much longer than me. This program was in, in its infancy several decades ago, between 20 and 30 years ago when they first started using operators to update manuals and procedures. And so I don't know exactly like when Cherry Point said, we're going to roll out this new program. I think it happened much more organically than that. And it started to build and develop momentum from there. And so one thing I have been able to find maybe the answer for is if a site were to try to take on this idea or some similar idea to the, this type of a program would be follow that same path to start out smaller, start out with some specific process, safety element tasks, whether that's procedures and manuals or whether that is managing all of the MOCs for an operating area or for all of the operational changes, pick out an element or two pick out a couple of, of highly capable people who are motivated to build the program from the ground up and then let it organically develop and, and let people, and, and in operations and maintenance, just take on more ownership as it goes along.

I think that is why Cherry Point's been successful is that it wasn't a forced safety program that someone hammered out all the details as they saw them and then laid it over the top of our facility. It happened like culture generally is developed. It happened from within, and it happened over time and built itself up from a, a small starting point.

Traci: Trish, do you have any pointers that you'd want to toss in?

Trish: I just think it's really important to, to make sure that some of the details that Tony's talked about, if you're thinking of putting a program like this in, at your, at your facility, you need to make sure you prepare people appropriately and train them as they go in. You need to make sure they do maintain their currency in their previous role, and then very carefully transition them back into their previous role. So it does require a little bit of structure, but I also love that the program that Tony's described it was it evolved. And it, it was built from within which meant that it really did have that deep cultural aspect to it. It's important to remember that this program is largely around meeting that employee engagement and consultation aspect to deliver safer workplaces. You actually need to engage your employ employees and consult with them on how to make this work. If this is something that you want to try and do, don't go and try and set it up yourself without actually seeing if there's interest and passion in the workforce to try and achieve it as well, because then it will be something laid over the top that is probably doomed to fail if you don't have that engagement. And it is quite a substantial change. So you do need to consult and engage your workforce about a change in in PSM like this as well.

Traci: Tony, you had mentioned some of the challenges that this program had brought onto your plate, but do you have any highlights for your participation? Some, some really great things that you think about?

Tony: I'll give you maybe my proudest work moment serving in this role was an update to our site's piping demolition policy. So when you start talking about piping demolition and, and cutting piping out of any of your process units in a refinery, there is the major process safety risk of cutting into a live line. And that's something that we work really diligently to try to prevent in our industry, but you have to make sure that your practices at your site align with your intentions to try to conduct pipe demolition as safely as possible. And we saw an opportunity at Cherry Point to make some improvements to our site practices. So I spearheaded that effort and was able to coordinate with a very large group of stakeholders, both from our contract forces, our maintenance shops, the people really getting in there and talking with the people who do the work as a process operator.

I isolate piping for demolition, but I don't, I'm not the actual one who's cutting piping out of the pipe rack. And so we were able to pick everybody's brains. What are the best practices they, they see at Cherry Point, what are some great practices they saw outside that they would like us to incorporate and brought all those ideas together and vetted them through our management of change process and came out with a demolition procedure and our site practices around cutting into cutting piping that I think really solved what we were trying to solve and is something that I'm pretty proud of making that improvement for our facility.

Traci: Something you should be very proud of. Indeed. Trish knows that I toss out this question, so I'll let her go first on this, but this is always my last question. Anything that you'd like to add about this topic that you think we didn't touch on?

Trish: The only thing I'll add is that it is always a good day when somewhere in the world, a new process safety champion has been formed. And I think through the experience that Tony's had at his refinery, we've seen the formation of a new process, safety champion. And I just think that's wonderful because that's another person out there speaking about why this is important and engaging others in it because they, their passion is being demonstrated and everybody can see why you think it's important. So thank you, Tony is, is all I want to add. It's wonderful to see another process safety champion.

Tony: Well, thank you. I would add the same sentiments around. There's a story that I have, which is what it took me. I was able to present this model at the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Symposium. Trish was there in attendance. I remember her being there and being able to see my presentation, but my story came from the year previous, when I just attended the symposium, I was in my new role as the operations process safety specialist for our refinery. And so I was going to you know, a large process safety conference to learn as much as I could and experience as much as I could. And what I found was at that time in 2018, I was really the only operations technician at the symposium. I was the only person in the room who was working front lines operations at the time.

And so that opened my eyes one to how unique and special my opportunity at Cherry Point was. But maybe more importantly, and it ties on to exactly what Trish talked about is that we, I think we should be inviting our frontline workers to the table as much as possible. And I think that's been my experience. I think that's probably a lot of people's experience in their facility is that inclusion and making sure that you have a really inclusive safety culture at your site, that everybody feels that they have a valuable place at the table that they can speak and be heard, and that their thoughts are included and respected. And, and so I think a program like ours or something similar, or just the, the idea that we want to make sure that everybody has a voice in our facility and we encourage them to use that voice to speak up is really, I think, holistically what the goal, the goal should be

Traci: Great conversation here today. I want to thank you both for being process safety champions. Trish, you're instrumental in forming process safety champions throughout the UK and Australia, and here in the U.S. through this podcast. Thank you both for making this podcast possible and all the great information. Unfortunate events happen all over the world, and we will be here to discuss and learn from them. And as evidenced by today's podcast, we can learn from programs aimed at promoting processing safety. Subscribe to this free podcast so you can stay on top of best practices on behalf of Trish and our guest today, Tony, I'm Traci, and this is Process Safety with Trish and Traci

Trish: Stay safe.

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Trish Kerin, director, IChemE Safety Centre, Institution of Chemical Engineers, spent several years working in design, project management, operational, safety and executive roles for the oil, gas and chemical industries. She currently sits on the board of the Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and is a member of the Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center steering committee. You can email her at [email protected].
Traci Purdum, an award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering manufacturing and management issues, joined Chemical Processing as senior digital editor in 2008. Traci is a graduate of the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kent, Ohio, and an alumnus of the Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. You can email her at [email protected].

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