The Risk Management Professional

The picture at the top of this page is of Admiral Rickover (1900-1986), often referred to as father of the nuclear navy. The ships he controlled were powered by nuclear reactors and were often armed with nuclear missiles. He knew that the first accident with a nuclear ship would also be the last accident - there would be no tolerance for mistakes or accidents of any kind. The stringent standards…

Process Safety and Railroads

One of the themes of these Safety Moments is that different industries have much in common. Therefore, a safety program that works for one industry is likely to be useful and relevant in another. Certainly, each industry has its own specific issues that are not shared with others (some of these are described in Safety Moment #8: “But We’re Different, You Know”). But, as a generalization,…

The Risk Management Consultant

The material in this post is extracted from Chapter 20 of the book Process Risk and Reliability Management and from the ebook The Risk Management Professional. No organization, regardless of its size, can have expertise on all aspects of the industry in which it works. There will always be specialized areas in which they will need outside help. Which means that they will need to hire a…

Where Then Shall (Process Safety) Wisdom Be Found?

Safety Moment #23: Clear Your Mind of Cant quoted the Yale professor, Harold Bloom. His insights are used again in this Safety Moment. Information is endlessly available to us; where shall wisdom be found? His insight can be paraphrased on the following lines, Technical information is endlessly to us (mostly from the Internet); where shall process safety wisdom be found?  One way of…

Hyperloop Generic Safety Study

In Safety Moment #8: “But We’re Different, You Know” we show that risk analysis techniques have much in common across different parts of the process and energy industries. Lessons can be shared across industries such as oil refining, chemicals manufacture, pipeline operations and offshore oil and gas production. But, given that the first word in the phrase Process Safety Management (PSM) is…

The Case for Safety Cases

The Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) in the year 2010 demonstrated the need for new safety management regulations. The draft regulations went through various iterations, and the name of the responsible government agency changed twice. In the end, the SEMS (Safety and Environmental Management System) regulation became a requirement for offshore oil and gas…

The Cruise Ship’s Galley

A process safety expert and his wife went on a cruise. Part of the cruise included a tour of the ship’s impressive galley and food-serving facilities. The tour was led by one of the ship’s sous chefs. The process safety expert realized that he was looking at a small chemical plant. In front of him were processes that involved chemical reactions, heat exchange and moderately high pressures. So he…

Not the Whole Truth

Safety professionals are rightly making increasing use of photographs and videos to train and educate the workforce, and to analyze incidents. In particular, security cameras often provide a fine record of an event as it unfolds. However, it is important to be careful. Not only can images be deliberately changed, but the camera may not record everything of relevance. The following set of…

The Plural of Anecdote Is Not Data

John Michael GreerAbstraction and Reflection The author John Michael Greer published two interesting and related posts: A Rhetorical Education and The Twilight of Authority. In them he draws a distinction between two ways of thought: Abstraction and Reflection. He explains them as follows. Abstraction is the belief that the world around us obeys a set of laws that can be known by the human…

Assessing Operational Excellence

In Safety Moment #24: Where Then Shall (Process Safety) Wisdom Be Found? we suggested that an effective safety management system is built around three elements: Formal Systems/Education, Process Safety Management Systems and Practical Experience. When we combine these three elements we move toward Operational Excellence or Process Safety Wisdom, as shown in the sketch at the top of this page. We…

Use of Safety Moments

You are welcome to use our Safety Moments in your workplace. However please note the following restrictions: The material is copyright Ian Sutton. Normal copyright and fair use restrictions apply. Inform the audience that you received the Safety Moment from the Sutton Technical Books site. You cannot sell the Safety Moment or use it for commercial purposes. After you have presented the Safety…

Further Thoughts to do with Risk Matrices

Many hazards analysis teams use a risk matrix to prioritize the hazards that they have identified. But, in practice, it is often observed that these matrices are of limited value (see Safety Moment #51: Limitations of Risk Matrices). Reasons for this difficulty include the following: There are few high frequency/high consequence ("stop the bus") events that remain to be identified. After a…

CargoSpeed / Hyperloop

The success of the new transportation systems that are going to replace conventional rail depends on their ability to carry freight at high speed. Therefore, it is encouraging to see that Virgin Hyperloop One is working on such a system. Copyright © Ian Sutton. 2018. All Rights Reserved.

Ford’s Missing AND Gate

Credit ReutersUpdate to the Update Antonov An-124 Ford management has made a huge effort to get around the problem created by having just the one supplier of a critical component. And they were successful. They even used the enormous Antonov An-124 freight carrier to fix the problem as quickly as possible. In process safety terms, it could be said that their emergency response program functioned…

Once upon a time . . .

Communicating — Not Telling One of the founders of the discipline of process safety was Trevor Kletz. He understood that human beings communicate best not by reading reports, articles or presentations but through stories. Which is why, following his death in the year 2013, we wrote the eulogy That would be telling.  Few of us have followed his leadership. Bill Baker, principal of BB&Co…

Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-Based Safety Overview A behavior-based safety (BBS) program aims to make permanent changes in the manner in which people work. Safety becomes a way of life that is baked into everyone's behavior. It is important to recognize, however, that a BBS program does not attempt to chance who a person is, and it most certainly is not a pop-psychology program. The program is directed just to a…

Lowest Level of Risk (BSEE)

Overview (BSEE Risk) As part of its Well Control Rule BSEE appears to have made a major change in the manner in which offshore risk is to be managed. Section 250.107(a)(3) states, [y]ou must protect health, safety, property and the environment by utilizing recognized engineering practices that reduce risks to the lowest level practicable when conducting design, fabrication, installation,…

Event Tree Analysis

Overview Event Tree Analysis (ETA) uses the same logical and mathematical techniques as Fault Tree Analysis. However, whereas a fault tree analyzes how an undesirable top event may occur, an event tree considers the impact of the failure of a particular component or item in the system, and works out the effect such a failure will have on the overall system risk or reliability. Event trees use an…

Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS)

Overview Following the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo catastrophe in the year 2010 it became clear that substantial improvements were needed to offshore safety management in the United States. The framework of a new rule was already available as API RP 75 - Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Offshore Operations and Facilities (SEMP). This standard was used as the basis…

Operational Readiness / Prestartup Safety Reviews

The purpose of an Operational Readiness/PreStartup Safety Review (PSSR) is to ensure that initial start-ups, or start-ups following major project work, proceed safely and smoothly. As with most process safety activities a PSSR will generally be performed by a small team made up of representatives from operations, maintenance, engineering, and safety. The terms ‘Operational Readiness Review’ and…

History of Safety Management in the Process Industries

Video History Safety Management: we have published a 30 minute video package that shows how safety management systems in the process and energy industries have developed during the course of the last 300 years. The YouTube video shown at the end of this page provides a short extract. Historical Sequence We can look at the development of the history of industrial safety programs using the 12…

NORM - Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material

Overview NORM Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material is found in many naturally-occurring materials, including some oil and gas deposits. When NORM is transported to the surface in production streams it can precipitate and accumulate inside tubing strings, surface equipment and piping as sulfate and carbonate deposits. NORM can also be found in refinery piping. It has been estimated that,…

Hard Times for Culture Change

There has been much discussion in recent years as to how to develop new and improved cultures within the process industries. There appears to be an implicit assumption in these discussions that ours is the first generation to wrestle with the problem of creating a new culture. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it can be instructive to examine how previous generations affected…

HSE (Health, Safety and Environment)

Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Risk management programs are usually part of a facility's Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) program. (Some companies use the initials in a different order, i.e., SHE, HES, or EHS. The choice is not important. In the United Kingdom, the letters 'HSE' generally refer to the regulatory agency the Health and Safety Executive.) Although Health, Safety and…

Inherent Safety

The term 'Safety' as used in the process industries can be divided into three major categories:  Inherent Process Safety   Passive   Active   Procedural Occupational/Personal Of these three the most effective is Inherent Safety. The basic idea behind the Inherent Safety concept is simple; process facilities should be built such that, were there to be any type of failure, the system would…

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S)

Hydrogen Sulfide Hydrogen Sulfide is a highly toxic chemical compound that is found in a wide variety of oil processing operations. High concentrations of H2S may be present in crude oil, molten sulfur, tank and pit-bottom sludge and produced water, all of which may release H2S when agitated, heated, or depressurized. Typical operational activities where personnel may be exposed to H2S include…

Standard Examples

We have developed a set of process safety management standard examples that are used to illustrate some of the concepts and ideas developed in our publications.  Example 1 - Facility Design A process consists of four operating units and a utilities section. A schematic of the system is shown in Figure 1.   Figure 1 - Facility DesignExample 2 - Process Flow Figure 2 shows part of Unit 100 from…

That would be telling

The Kletz Legacy One of the founders of the process safety discipline was Trevor Kletz (1922-2013). Probably his best eulogy is also the simplest, "He saved lives." As we reflect on Trevor's contributions it is clear that one of his greatest gifts was that of telling stories. He wrote extensively on technical topics such as hazards analysis and inherent safety, but he is probably best…

Risk Perception

The material in this article to do with risk perception is taken from the book Process Risk and Reliability Management. Oscar WildeRisk perception is fundamentally a subjective matter; no matter how hard analysts strive to make the topic objective the fact remains that, as Oscar Wilde  (1854-1900) once said, A truth ceases to be a truth as soon as two people perceive it.    This observation…

Catching Samples

The material in this post is extracted from the 2nd edition of the book Plant Design and Operations. Dedicated connections should be provided for sample collection. Sample take-off connections should be easily accessible and should be at ground level. The sample line should be as short as possible. If it cannot be made short then a sample loop, as described below, will be needed. Sample take-off…

Pressure Tests

The material in this article has been extracted from the book Plant Design and Operations. After a piece of equipment or piping that operates under pressure has been opened and then reassembled (buttoned up) it must be pressure tested before being put back into service. There are two types of pressure test. The first is a tightness or leak test, performed after the equipment has been opened but…

Flammable and Combustible Materials

The material in this article is extracted from Chapter 1  the 2nd edition of the book Plant Design and Operations. A hazard that is of great concern to virtually all process facilities is fire — most of the materials being processed, stored or transported are flammable and/or explosive. Therefore, when designing a process facility, the prevention and control of fire are of the utmost importance…

Stairways and Ladders

The material in this article is extracted from Chapter 2 of the 2nd edition of book Plant Design and Operations. When developing the layout for a facility it is very important to ensure that personnel can move around quickly and safely using stairways, ladders, platforms and ramps. They should also be able to use the stairways and ladders to move maintenance equipment and tools, as needed and…

Safety Signs

The material in this Article is extracted from Chapter 16 (Human Factors and Ergonomics) of the book Plant Design and Operations. Guidance as to the types of signs and their meanings is provided below. Prohibition Prohibition signs mean "You must not" or "Do not do . . ." or "Stop". Signs of this type have a red circle, a white interior and a red bar, as illustrated in Figure 16.4. Figure 16.…

Fire Types

The material in this article is taken from Chapter 12 of the  2ndedition of the book Plant Design and Operations. The first step in the design and development of a system to prevent, control and extinguish fires is to identify the various release scenarios that could lead to an explosion and/or fire. This is often done through use of a hazards analysis technique such as HAZOP (Hazard and…

Lockout Tagout

Lockout / tagout systems are routinely used to protect workers when they are working with or close to hazardous systems. They are typically used in conjunction with the other isolation methods. Once a switch or valve is in the correct position it is locked so that it cannot be moved, and a 'Do Not Operate' tag is attached to it. (Valves are often chained in place, with the lock being used to…

Two Too Many Common Causes

Note: The writer does not possess special knowledge of the nuclear power industry, has not worked in a nuclear power plant and is relying entirely on public information gleaned mostly from the Internet to write this material. Hence it is more than likely that many of the thoughts and conclusions presented here will have to be updated or changed as new data or insights are provided…

Process Safety Culture

The following material is extracted from the book Process Risk and Reliability Management. ************************************* Employee participation lies at the heart of any process safety management program. It is probably for this reason that OSHA placed the topic of Employee Participation, also known as Workforce Involvement, as the first of its fourteen Process Safety Management elements…

THERP

Human error rates can be modeled using a technique known as THERP (Technique for Human Error Rate Prediction). The method uses Boolean logic to model and predict human error rates. Hence it can be integrated Probabilistic Risk Assessment techniques - particularly Fault and Event Tree analysis. A THERP analysis is most effective when the tasks are routine and proceduralized, and when the persons…

Confined Space Entry

Confined Space Entry A Confined Space is a space which is large enough for a worker to enter but has limited openings for entry and exit and is not intended for continuous employee occupancy. Entry is considered to have occurred as soon as any part of the entrant's body breaks the plane of an opening into the space. Therefore it is not permissible, for example, to take a quick breath and to put…

Fault Tree Analysis

Risk Analysis Risk can be analyzed in one of two basic ways: inductively or deductively, that is either bottom-up or top-down. In a deductive analysis a top-level system failure is postulated. The analyst then works backwards to deduce what combinations of events could have occurred for the system failure to have taken place (a detective solving a crime is thinking deductively). Fault tree…

Acceptable Risk

Fundamentally risk is subjective; it is not possible to dispassionately define what level of risk is acceptable and what is not. Any two risk scenarios are inherently different from one another due to people’s inherent understanding and acceptance of different types of risk. The subjective component of risk becomes even more pronounced when the perceptions of non-specialists, particularly…

Pig Launching and Retrieving

This article provides guidance to do with the launching and retrieving of pipeline pigs (also known as scrapers or tools). Pig Launching Below is a schematic of a launcher. In normal operation the fluid (liquid or gas) moves along the line from left to right through the open Main Line valve. The kicker and isolation valves are both closed hence the barrel of the pig launcher is isolated from…

Equipment Isolation Methods

Isolation Methods Positive isolation methods are those which remain effective even if there is equipment failure or operator error. These techniques apply not only to vessels, piping and tanks but also to pneumatic and hydraulic equipment. The sketch shows some of the various isolation techniques that can be used to protect workers in the process industries. The process containing toxic or…

Siting and Layout of Process Facilities

Siting Siting and Layout: The words ‘siting’ and ‘layout’ are often used interchangeably, but, strictly speaking, they have different meanings. Siting is concerned with the location of a facility. For example, if a company is planning on building a new chemical plant its management may consider the relative merits of sites in Texas, Mexico or China. Layout, on the other hand, is to do with the…

Plugged Process Piping

Process lines, piping and valves frequently become plugged. If line pluggage is a recurring problem it is best to try and identify ways in which the problem can be prevented from occurring. If that solution is not possible then valves, drains, tees and connections should be designed so that it is possible to remove the pluggage safely and with minimum time and expense. Prevention of Pluggage It…

Blinds in Process Piping

Overview Blinds process piping. Blinds - also known as blanks or spades - provide positive isolation between sections of a process. The following guidance is provided to do with the location, installation, and use of blinds. At battery limits in all process, utility, relief, and blowdown lines; As required for inspection, maintenance, testing, or alternative operation of equipment, such as…

Storage Tanks in the Process and Energy Industries

Storage tanks are widely used in the process industries to store liquids that are below their boiling point at atmospheric temperature (some tanks may be insulated and they may have heating or cooling coils to maintain the temperature of the liquid that they are storing). Typically, tanks are either open to the atmosphere or to a system such as a flare or vent header that is at atmospheric…

Contractors in the Process Industries

For further information on this topic, please refer to our ebook Contractors. Contractors play a vital and increasingly important role in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of process and energy facilities, as can be seen from the chart shown below. It can be seen that, over the last twenty years or so, the number of contractor work hours has increased by about a fact of fifteen…

The Fundamentals of Risk

Risk This article discusses risk fundamentals in the process and energy industries.The word 'risk' has a wide range of meanings. In the context of process plant management it can be categorized in one of three ways. The first type of risk is to do with catastrophic events and serious safety violations. They can also have a major effect on a company's financial performance to the point where the…

Principles of Process Safety Management

Many of the publications that we offer are to do with the topic of Process Safety Management (PSM), or with related topics such as the offshore Safety and Environmental Management System (SEMS) and Safety Cases. An overview of the topic of Process Safety Management is provided here. Much more detail is available in the books Process Risk and Reliability Management and Offshore Safety Management…