- Principles of Process Safety Management
- A pathway to improved Process Safety Management
- Characteristics of ‘high resilience’ organisations
- Process Safety Leadership
- Developing a Process Safety Culture
- A Process Safety Management System
- The role of Benchmarking
Principles of Process Safety Management
Process safety management related to fertilisers has evolved over time, and become more sophisticated, through the following four phases:
- Compliance based – what do I have to do?
- Standards based – what should I do?
- Continuous improvement based – how can I improve what we do?
- Risk based – how can I better manage risk?
Four key components of Risk Based Process Safety are:
- A commitment to process safety.
- An understanding of hazards and risk,
- Managing risk.
- Systematic learning from experience.
Significant improvements have been made to fertiliser production plants to improve process safety. These improvements have occurred in many areas, such as process design, technology, catalysts, material selection and fabrication of equipment, operation, inspection and maintenance of plant to sustain the plant operation safely, reliably and efficiently. Improvements in automation, safety instrumented systems (SIS) and digital communication mean that process upsets are identified faster, and the plant condition is returned to a safe state without needing unrealistic levels of operator intervention.
Structured processes are used to manage asset integrity and prevent leaks, spills and any other technical failures or breakdowns. Process safety starts at the early design phase and continues throughout the life cycle of the plant. This ensures the plant is operated safely, well maintained and inspected regularly to identify and deal with any potential process safety hazards.
The standards used to manage process safety define how to manage facilities during their complete life cycle, with the goal of preventing incidents such as leaks and spills. Learnings from investigations into industry incidents are embedded into these standards.
The participation of companies in relevant technical meetings, such as the AIChE or Fertilizers Europe, is valuable for a helpful exchange of safety information.
A pathway to improved process safety management
The efforts that different organisations are making to raise the profile of process safety and improve performance obviously differ according to the respective organisations’ perceptions of where they stand in terms of performance, management systems and culture as well as their aspirations. While there is no widely accepted blueprint for a transformational process, it is possible to identify a number of activities that various organisations are using to improve the management of process safety. Some of these are listed below:
- Promoting a shared understanding of process safety and process safety management at all levels of the organisation by means of training.
- Reassessing or updating the company’s process safety risk profile by means of structured hazard reviews and HAZOP revalidations with the involvement of front-line staff to increase the focus on human factors.
- Establishing process safety expertise in appropriate parts of the organisation to complement personal safety management resources, recognising that many safety managers are insufficiently trained or experienced to hold process safety management responsibilities.
- Undertaking assessments or audits of process safety management systems and the health of protective layers relating to key process hazards to establish baselines for improvement plans.
- Establishing process safety committees to promote process safety at senior and local operating levels.
- Developing process safety goals and metrics at site and higher levels to provide an appropriate focus on performance and demonstrate effective corporate governance.
Characteristics of ‘high resilience’ organisations
Research (Weick and Sutcliffe, 2007) has identified certain organisations that have developed a superior ability to cope with potentially high risk situations. These are organisations that are complex, operate in environments where the consequences of failure are high and yet have better-safety performance than might be expected; examples are nuclear submarines, electricity grid controllers and air traffic controllers. Studies have defined five characteristics that distinguish these organisations’ behaviours in unexpected or fast-moving situations; behaviours that provide the resilience to prevent the development of serious incidents and return to normality:
- A preoccupation with failure – the recognition that weak signals of failure may be symptoms of bigger problems and demand a strong corrective response to prevent further degradation towards an incident. This would include errors that do not result in near-miss situations.
- A reluctance to simplify – a desire for detailed understanding of issues through the sharing of diverse opinions as opposed to the temptation to categorise issues by generic type.
- A sensitivity to operations – paying close attention to what is actually happening, comparing what is happening to what was expected and interacting to build a clear picture of the real situation with a focus on front-line staff as the key players.
- A commitment to resilience through the active development of the skills and knowledge of front-line to staff to handle unexpected situations.
- A deference to expertise – the capability to take a flexible response to an unexpected situation and allow the person or team best placed to respond to take authority.
Process Safety Leadership
Although aspects of the role of leadership in process safety management have been discussed in connection with incidents where the failures of senior management have been apparent, such as the Piper Alpha oil rig disaster of 1988 (Cullen, 1990), the emergence of models of required leadership behaviours have only emerged more recently, for example in the writings of Hopkins on the Esso Longford incident in 1998 and on the BP Texas City incident (Hopkins, 2009). Examples of required leadership behaviour include:
- Leading by example in terms of personal interest, communication and the setting of process safety goals.
- Ensuring that there is process safety expertise at levels of the organisation that are appropriate to the decisions that could affect process safety management, principally resource and investment decisions.
- The operation of reward or incentive systems that give appropriate emphasis to process safety activities and goals.
- The investment of financial resources to undertake periodic process hazard reviews and – importantly – implement the risk reduction opportunities that they may identify.
- The investment in process safety training and competence assessment and the safeguarding of corporate memory, including retention of process safety expertise.
- The establishment of effective assurance or governance processes to provide assurance that process safety management systems are being implemented effectively across the organisation.
- The development of process safety performance indicators which provide performance information at different levels of the organisation that is appropriate to the types of resourcing and investment decision made at each level.
- The fostering of a strong process safety culture.
This leads to the concept of a process safety culture.
Developing a Process Safety Culture
The relevance of culture to process safety has been discussed by several authors (Reason, 1997; Hopkins, 2005). These sources define a number of characteristics of organisations with a strong process safety culture. They are:
- Cognisant organisations that understand the nature of the process safety war as ‘a long guerrilla struggle with no final victory’.
- Informed (reporting) organisations that encourage the reporting of near miss events and are ever mindful of the impact of failure.
- Just organisations that exhibit a strong atmosphere of trust and understand that human errors are not the root causes of incidents but rather are caused themselves by personal and organisational factors.
- Disciplined organisations that understand the importance of operational discipline, with everybody combining to perform every task right first time.
- Learning organisations that take the time and allocate resources to implementing lessons from failures in other organisation as well as their own.
A Process Safety Management System
The way in which Process Safety Leadership and culture is put into practice is through the development, implementation and maintenance of an effective process safety management (PSM) system. This acts to prevent incidents from happening, The elements of such a process safety elements are shown in Figure 1. These are:
- Process Safety Culture.
- Compliance with Standards.
- Process Safety Competency.
- Workforce Involvement.
- Stakeholder Outreach.
- Process Knowledge Management.
- Hazard Identification and Risk Analysis.
- Operating Procedures.
- Safe Work Practices.
- Asset Integrity and Reliability.
- Contractor Management.
- Training and Performance.
- Management of Change.
- Operational Readiness (PSSR).
- Conduct of Operations.
- Emergency Management.
- Incident Investigation.
- Measurement and Metrics.
- Management Review and Continuous Improvement.
All steps mentioned above are important. For successful operation of a production site the evaluation of process risks is important and adequate layers of protection must be provided to protect people, the environment and the asset. These PSM elements form the protective layer to prevent incidents from happening, Figure 2.
Approaches that should be taken to address process safety risks are:
- Identify risks and hazards, eliminate or minimise in the design phase.
- Ensure that hazardous area classifications are done properly.
- Select the right construction materials, based on the severity of process risks.
- Make all procedures readily available to operate the plant safely.
- Train personnel adequately to operate and maintain plant safely and prevent loss of containment.
- Keep manual intervention to the minimum to reduce human error.
- Perform regular audits, HAZOPs, SIL classifications and implement all recommendations in due time.
- Do not bypass Safety Instrumented Systems unless absolutely necessary and with a Management of Change procedure involving the highest levels of authority, and only for a very short period.
- Process risks and hazards must be assessed for all modes of plant operation (start up, normal operation, shutdown, trips and abnormal operation).
- Continuous refresher training for the personnel at all levels.
- When doing maintenance, make sure that the workplace for maintenance personnel is hazards-free by using proper isolations, cleaning and purging free of any residual chemicals.
- Perform job safety analysis and follow safe work permit system for any jobs in the plant.
This section is based on Duisters, 2020.
The role of benchmarking
Benchmarking is a specific tool that enables a company to identify how well it is doing compared to its peers in the industry, what the industry top performance is, and how large the gap is to the top performers within the industry, thus creating a stimulus for continuous improvement. A PSM identifies performance gaps, creates performance enhancement goals, measures the effectiveness of improvement programmes, and maintains continuous improvement.
PSM benchmark assessments can help to identify three main interrelated but distinct benefits: (a) internal benchmarking of various sites, (b) learning through the process of understanding the benchmark questionnaire, and (c) a need for a detailed analysis of existing systems implementation. Using a systematic PSM benchmark drives lessons learned to strategic and organisational learning.
Cullen, (1990). The Public Inquiry into the Piper Alpha Disaster, HM Stationery Office, UK.
Hopkins, A. (2005). Safety, Culture and Risk – The Organisational Causes of Disasters, Hopkins, CCH Australia.
Hopkins, A. (2009). Failure to Learn – the BP Texas City Refinery Disaster, CCH Australia.
Reason, J. (1997). Managing the Risks of Organisational Accidents, Ashgate Publishing.
Weick, K.E. and Sutcliffe, K.M. (2007). Managing the Unexpected 2nd Edition, Wiley.
Links to Related IFS Proceedings
207, (1982), Protecting Fertiliser Manufacturing Plant: The Role of Surface Coatings, D W May
207, (1982), Corrosion and Protection of Concrete in an Ammonium Nitrate Environment, P Furnival
307, (1991), Stress Corrosion Cracking of Carbon Steel Storage Tanks for Anhydrous Ammonia, L Lunde, R Nyborg
382, (1996), Control of Stress Corrosion Cracking in Liquid Ammonia Storage Tanks, R Nyborg, L Lunde, P-E Drønen
401, (1997), Ammonia: Safety, Health and Environmental Aspects, K D Shah
406, (1997), Product Stewardship (Fertilisers), D M Martin, R S N Carne
435, (1999), Transport Safety for Nitric Acid by Road and Rail,
482, (2001), De-Commissioning of Ammonia Cold-Storage Tanks, J Kristensen, R Fogg
494, (2002), Off-spec and Reject Fertiliser: Management Guidelines, K D Shah, J A M van Balken
508, (2003), Product Stewardship Applied to Fertilisers, H Kiiski, R J Milborne
537, (2004), Nitric Acid Production – Operational Safety, J A Hudson
541, (2004), Legislation Affecting Nitric Acid Operations, K D Shah
546, (2004), Micronutrient Inclusion in Fertilisers: Safety and Compatibility, H Kiiski
562, (2005), Safe Use of Gas-Fired Equipment in Fertiliser Plants, H A M Duisters
603, (2007), Inspection of Atmospheric Ammonia Storage Tanks; New EFMA Recommendations, H A M Duisters
604, (2007), Safety Issues in Ammonia Handling and Distribution, K D Shah
622, (2008), Corrosion Beneath Insulating Materials, F De Vogelaere
622, (2008), Safety and Protection of Overhead Pipework, N G Oates
650, (2009), A Company Review of Manufacturing Operations in Response to the Findings of the Baker Report, C P Lynas, E Campbell, H J Koornhof, J R Brightling
673, (2010), Process Safety in the Fertiliser Industry, P Eames, J R Brightling
674, (2010), A Fertiliser Company Approach to Improving Process Safety Performance, J-P Fossum, H Navsaria
694, (2011), Risk Based Inspection Implementation: Increasing Plant Safety and Reliability, G Franceschini
706, (2012), Fertiliser Product Stewardship Program. The European and Global Experience, J B Hansen, B Muirheid
721, (2013), Applications of Laser Gas Detection in the Fertiliser Industry, H Adam, J Selby, L Harper
722, (2013), Developments in Fertiliser Security, E J Pullinger
745, (2014), Detection and Localisation of Leakages in Toxic/Flammable Chemicals Pipelines Using Distributed Fibre Optic Sensors, D Inaudi, R de Bont, R Walder
749, (2014), First Practical Experience with Robot Inspection of Ammonia Storage Tanks, K Bakli, O N Mortensen, C Valand
785, (2016), Benchmarking – An Important Milestone in the Journey Towards Process Safety Management Excellence, C Pridy
786, (2016), Transforming Vehicle Safety by a Primary Fertiliser Producer in the UK, D Phelan
803, (2017), Changes, challenges, and opportunities in fertiliser-manufacturing processes: A personal review and outlook, J G Reuvers
807, (2017), Distributed control system implemented at a UK fertiliser complex: past, present and future, T Southerton
830, (2019), Principles and Applications of a Directory of Urea Safety Incidents, with Case Studies, M J Brouwer
843, (2020), Occupational and Process Safety in Ammonia Plants – Pitfalls to Avoid, H Duisters
Links to external resources
International Fertiliser Association Safety Handbook. Establishing and Maintaining Positive Safety Management Practices in the Work Place
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