Process safety

ProcessSafety_Topics_Text.jpgProcess safety is a disciplined framework for managing the integrity of operating systems and processes that handle hazardous substances.

It relies on good design principles, engineering, operating and maintenance practices.

In recent years, major incidents in both the upstream and downstream industries have highlighted the importance of having these robust processes and systems in place.  

Preventing major incidents by focusing on process safety

While major process incidents happen relatively infrequently, the industry cannot afford to rely on lessons from these alone. To strengthen safety barriers and prevent these incidents from occurring at all, it is necessary to collect, collate and analyse data from less severe incidents and shortfalls in management system performance. 

In the downstream sector, recommendations issued following the US Texas City Refinery and UK Buncefield oil terminal incidents reinforced the urgent need for improved key performance indicators (KPIs).  In 2008, OGP published Asset Integrity – the key to managing major incident risks, which set out how to implement an asset integrity management system for new and existing upstream assets. It also provided guidance on developing leading and lagging KPIs.  Leading indicators maintain barrier strength. Lagging indicators measure barrier defects, events and consequences.

Since then, based on work conducted by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) on process safety key performance indicators for downstream operations, OGP has developed an equivalent guide for the upstream industry. Process Safety: Recommended Practice on Key Performance Indicators emphasises the importance of having in place and actively monitoring multi-level barriers to prevent an incident from happening and then stopping it from escalating should those initial barriers fail. The report also advises companies on selecting the right KPIs for each phase of prevention and mitigation.

This work builds on OGP’s long-established key performance indicators for personal safety. Since 1985, when OGP started reporting annual trends in upstream safety data, the industry has seen dramatic reductions in the numbers of occupational injuries and fatalities in the workplace.