Safety Moment #56: Sinking Standards

This month is the 30 year anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. And, as to be expected, many people have published articles, blogs and web pages to do with that event, and the lessons that it continues to teach us. But there is an earlier maritime event which probably had a greater impact in its day than did Piper Alpha in ours. And that event was the sinking of the Titanic. (The image at the…

Safety Moment #53: Slug Catchers

The fluids flowing through many pipelines are two phase, i.e., a mixture of liquid and gas. Ideally the two phases separate out with the liquid at the bottom section of the pipe. The two phases flow together to a processing facility that separates the two phases. In practice, however, the two phases often travel at different rates which means that they can form slugs whereby the composition of…

Safety Moment #36: Common Process Hazards — Utilities

Process-related hazards are often initiated by problems with utility systems because a failure in the utility system can create multiple problems simultaneously at many different locations. Hence utility failures are often an example of a common cause effect. For example, if a nitrogen header may become contaminated with oxygen, thus creating a danger in many parts of the facility at the same…

Safety Moment #35: Safety Shower Layout

Many industrial facilities handle corrosive chemicals that can cause serious burns and tissue damage if they come into contact with a person’s skin. When a person is splashed with one of these chemicals, he or she needs to be able to quickly get to an emergency shower quickly in order to wash off the corrosive or burning liquid with large quantities of water. An emergency eyewash removes the…

Safety Moment #34: The Purloined Letter

One of the world’s first detective stories, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Purloined Letter, was written in the year 1844. It is set in the City of Paris. In the story the bad guy — Minister D — has in his possession a letter containing compromising information about an unnamed lady. He is using this information to blackmail her. There is only one copy of the letter (reminder: there were no copying…

Safety Moment #32: Hot Tapping

Welding a new nozzle on to a pipe or equipment item normally requires that the system be drained, depressurized and purged. This is a time-consuming and potentially risky process. In order to expedite the change, it is sometimes possible to make the attachment using a technique known as hot tapping or pressure tapping where the welding is carried out while the pipe of equipment item is in service…

Safety Moment #27: Audits and Assessments

Evaluations of risk management programs can take one of two forms. The first is a formal audit in which a management program is measured against an external standard such as a regulation, an engineering standard or corporate benchmark. An audit compares “what is” with “what should be”. It is fundamentally a pass/fail test; it is legalistic in nature. The second type of evaluation is a less formal…

Safety Moment #26: A Missed Opportunity

An oil refinery underwent an unscheduled shutdown. The problems that had lead to the shutdown were corrected and the refinery was ready to be re-started. The refinery superintendent — who knew the facility extremely well — had recently retired for health reasons. However management asked him to come back and take charge of the re-start because they knew that his experience would help them get up…

Safety Moment #15: Important HAZOP Guidewords

One of the philosophies that lies behind Process Safety Management (PSM) is that each chemical process is unique. Therefore it is not possible to have a prescriptive standard that tells operating companies what to do. Instead, companies have to identify the unique hazards associated with their facility, and then implement corrective actions based on a risk-ranking methodology. For this reason,…