Improve information management to reduce incidents in industrial processing

“I believe as an industry we can eliminate catastrophic process safety incidents.”

Wise and bold words from Kenan Stevick, lead advisor with consulting company Pilko & Associates, shared as part of the firm’s Leadership Series. He went on to say that it is within the energy and chemical industries’ control to better identify hazards, mitigate risk, understand liability and improve outcomes and uptimes. How? By using data to drive process safety excellence.

This mission has never been more important, with the rate of process safety incidents within the hydrocarbon industry on the rise — up 50 percent between 2016 and 2020. No sector has been immune, with upstream, refining and petrochemical accounting for approximately 90 percent of incidents.  And that report was issued right before the onset of COVID-19, which we suspect will add complications given the cultural constraints involved in managing a hybrid workforce.

And the cost impact continues to be jaw dropping. Looking back at the 100 largest property damage losses within the hydrocarbon extraction, transport and processing industry from 1974 to 2019, four losses within the 2018-2019 period rank among the top-20 largest losses ever.

The focus on mitigating the risk of incidents and improving operational excellence is made possible by Process Safety Management (PSM), defined by the U.S. Department of Labor as a set of standards required by OSHA to ensure the safe management of highly hazardous chemicals used in industrial processes.

PSM plays a vital role in maintaining operational integrity as part of an overarching umbrella for operational risk management. As a result, energy companies are evolving beyond the 14 elements required by OSHA PSM and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule. Proactive organizations are moving to a risk-based process safety model, utilizing the 20 elements recommended by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and embracing “Vision 20/20” developed by the Center for Chemical Process Safety. Vision 20/20 will distinguish the companies with fewer process safety incidents and those that achieve sustainability. Part of that requires incorporating conduct of operations to achieve operational discipline, meaning that important metrics need to be adopted that go beyond lagging indicators to include leading indicators.

These industry standards and recommended best practices are driving companies to integrate technologies, procedures and management practices to better control operational risk, creating a foundational framework to monitor and measure process safety performance.

A framework fueled by information management

PSM involves volumes of controlled content — policies, procedures, structured work processes, metrics, work instructions, checklists, process flow diagrams and engineering content — referred to as process safety information (i.e. piping and instrumentation diagrams, maximum intended inventory) that often resides in fragmented and siloed systems. The challenge is unifying required PSM information to gain much-needed visibility and use that information to drive proactive PSM processes across the organization to reduce risk.

With modern content management systems, complete with built-in PSM policies, procedures, work processes, PSM data and metrics templates, organizations gain a single source of truth. They can leverage existing data and content to improve safety insight with out-of-the-box content and templates to accelerate time to value. Plus, with built-in integrations to already-deployed applications, such as enterprise asset management systems and data historians, stakeholders can proactively measure safety performance with support from integrity operating windows, barrier health monitoring and other real-time systems (such as alarm data), powering informed decisions to drive ongoing organizational improvements.

PSM is complex and always evolving, requiring a multidimensional approach that blends technology with best practices content and pre-configured work processes to combat the continued rise in safety incidents. Without a single source of truth, operational blinders continue, putting safety, performance and profitability at risk. Effective, intelligent risk decisions can only move as fast as the data that supports them — waiting for accurate information on production, threats and outcomes puts companies at a clear disadvantage.

Discover how to create a comprehensive PSM framework with Process Safety Management for Energy from OpenText™ to handle hazardous substances, keep assets safe and productive, mitigate the risk of incidents and drive compliance.

Phil Schwarz

Phil Schwarz is the Industry Strategist for Energy at OpenText. With two decades of energy industry experience, Phil has become a trusted SME, having supported operators, EPCs, service providers, and OEMs across the entire value chain. Phil is an engineer by education and has a MBA, M.S. in Economics, and a Graduate Certificate in Smart Oilfield Technologies. He resides in the Anchorage, Alaska area and loves to hike and enjoy the outdoors.

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