Process safety isn’t capturing headlines the way personal safety is during this pandemic. However, it, of course, remains a top priority; chemical makers always should strive for ways to improve their process safety performance.
As our cover story “PHA Data Can Work Smarter,” highlights, processors can gain additional important insights from the massive amount of data they collect during process hazard assessments (PHAs). However, this requires a paradigm shift. “We must begin thinking of PHAs as less of a snapshot and more like a gigagpixel satellite image that allows you to zoom in and out at different altitudes and from a variety of vantage points,” the authors stress. “This macro-level perspective would enable us to compare and crosscheck different PHA results both across similar processes and facilities,” they explain.
As that article illustrates, such a perspective would allow a company to more easily spot the sometimes significant inconsistencies in how different plants rank the same risk. Moreover, it can show for a risk that sites rank similarly if mitigation approaches vary markedly. Glaring disparities should prompt questions as to why.
The way data now are handled in PHAs hampers getting a macro-level perspective. So, the authors recommend ways to overcome current barriers.
Another improvement — dynamic real-time risk identification and management — is gaining momentum, spurred by the pandemic and fluctuating oil and commodity prices, according to the 2020 “Process Safety Management and Operational Risk Management” survey conducted by Sphera, Chicago. Companies increasingly are considering technologies that can provide such capabilities, notes the report, which points to a shift from static to dynamic and simulated risk management.
“Many companies found themselves wondering if they had embraced simulated dynamic risk management tools earlier whether they would have seen less of a shock manifest itself throughout industry when the pandemic accelerated and oil prices ran out of steam,” says Scott Lehmann, coauthor of the report.
“The technology which connects the dots, joins the disparate processes and workflows, and illustrates the operational reality in real time simply has not existed until now,” he adds. “Companies that embrace these technologies will finally be able to achieve a holistic, end-to-end view of their operational risk.”
In addition to take-up of new approaches to risk visualization and mapping, survey respondents expect high rates of adoption over the next three years for fog/edge computing (over 600% increase) and digital twins (more than 300% growth).
This fifth annual report (for key points of last year’s survey, see “Process Safety Demands Perseverance,”) includes a section “Debates & Challenges” that cites four common process-safety failings: 1) use of outdated audits and inspections to decide on safety-critical priority; 2) incomplete audits and inspections; 3) deficiencies in the quality and consistency of audits; and 4) lack of awareness of vulnerability to major-accident-hazards risk exposure.
The report also covers a variety of other process-safety-related factors. One of its key conclusions is “...People need access to data and tools that deal with safety and risk in a dynamic, across-the-board way.”