This section on safety, risks and management approaches comprises the following pages:
Fertiliser safety overview and risks
- Process and occupational safety
- Safety risks associated with fertiliser production
Process and occupational safety
Two key terms in safety management are ‘process safety’ and ‘personal, or occupational’ safety. Process Safety Management (PSM) systems differ from occupational safety management in that process safety focuses directly on the processes, equipment and technology involved in causing an incident. PSM is focused on a risk based strategy and systematic implementation of processes to prevent process safety incidents. The focus shifts from the lagging indicators that track incidents to leading metrics that are used in a proactive manner to prevent incidents and continuously improve.
There are some important differences between the management of personal safety and process safety, which have a number of implications:
- The relative rarity of process safety incidents compared to injuries within an organisation means that conventional lagging performance indicators are of little use. Companies cannot wait to learn from bad experiences. Proactive and predictive metrics that are specific to process safety are required.
- The relative complexity of causation of process safety incidents compared to injuries, combined with the fact that the agent of a process safety incident is often not the victim, means there is a need to influence the organisation as a team rather than as individuals. The focus must be on organisational practices rather than individual mindsets.
- The previous point is underlined by the fact that causes of process safety incidents and their effects can be separated in time by many years and is an indication that unrevealed or latent failures can exist. When employees return home uninjured each day they have immediate feedback that we have been successful in our efforts; however a design error or poorly executed modification may not reveal itself for many years; there is often no immediate feedback to enable recovery.
- The lack of personal experience of process safety incidents means that most learning must come from outside the organisation.
These differences warn against assuming that the ‘hearts and minds’ approach to safety improvement, which works well when influencing personal behaviour to keep oneself safe and act as ones ‘brother’s keeper’, will be equally effective in securing improvements in process safety. It has a part to play, but avoiding process safety incidents involves the combined efforts of large numbers of people, many of whom will not be able to see the full picture from day to day.
The chart in Figure 1 shows the relationship between safety and its consequences. In general, a breakdown of process safety has more serious consequences than occupational safety.
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Safety risks associated with fertiliser production
Examples of potential process related risks associated with nitrogenous fertiliser production are shown in Table 1. The two main types of hazard are those associated with fire or explosions, and those due to the inherent nature of the chemicals involved in the production process. The production of phosphatic products involves the usage of acids, while that of potash involves heavy machinery.
Personal safety hazards exist in every workplace. Some examples of hazards are: spills, trips, and falls; blocked walkways; walkways not properly secured or closed off, falls from heights; inadequate machine guarding, an ineffective program to lock (electrical) machines when they have to be worked on (lock out / tag out), employee complacency, inadequate training, failure to conduct a hazardous risk assessment.
Links to Related IFS Proceedings
182, (1979), Risk Analysis and Fertiliser Plant, Sir Frederick Warner
383, (1996), Safe Operation of Fertiliser Plants, M R Bailey, R J Milborne, I K Watson
385, (1996), Risk Assessment in EU Safety Legislation – Adoption and Use, H Hagen
649, (2009), Safety and Environment – Lessons Learnt and Future Challenges for the Fertiliser Industry. 26th Francis New Memorial Lecture, T K Jenssen
808, (2017), Classification and security legislation updates affecting fertiliser industry, K D Shah and A Hoxha
Links to external resources
International Fertiliser Association Safety Handbook. Establishing and Maintaining Positive Safety Management Practices in the Work Place
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