Protect life

Safety for the process industries

Traditionally, the term’ safety’ is thought of in terms of the personal safety of individuals and the various actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury and ill health. Process safety, however, can be even more challenging. Process industries engage in some of the highest risk activities; if process safety is neglected the potential consequences to people, organisations and the environment can be catastrophic.

If you consider the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 11 people lost their lives, more than 1000 miles of coastline was polluted, over 6000 birds were killed and the estimated cost of the disaster was put in excess of $60bn.

In the ‘Final Report on the Investigation of the Macondo Well Blowout’ by the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, it was put that ‘BP organizations and operating teams did not possess a functional safety culture.’ It also suggested that BP’s corporate culture at the time was ‘embedded in risk-taking and cost-cutting’.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the oil and gas industry provides further evidence of the need for process safety management; earlier this year plans were revealed to store fuel once more at Buncefield, the site of a 2005 explosion that forced 2000 people to evacuate their homes. In the report ‘Buncefield: Why did it happen?’, jointly compiled by the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, it was stated that ‘process safety did not get the attention, resources or priority that it required’.

A new qualification for process safety management
One way that organisations can improve process safety management and safety culture, is to invest in relevant training for staff at all levels.

NEBOSH (National Examination Board in Occupational Health and Safety) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have joined forces to develop a brand new qualification for the process industries – the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management. The qualification is the result of an intensive period of consultation with global organisations operating in oil and gas, chemicals, utilities and manufacturing industries.

It has been designed for supervisors, newly appointed managers, junior managers, safety representatives and newly qualified health and safety advisors within the process industries, both inside and outside the UK. Students can expect to gain a broad understanding of the principles and industrial practices for the management of process risk so that they can recognise and contribute to the control of process safety hazards.

Creating a process safety culture
Improving process safety culture is one of the key benefits that can be realised through appropriate training or qualifications. They give employees the knowledge to be able to work to consistent, safe standards.

Bart Roeloffs is the Corporate Quality, Health, Safety and Environment Manager for Seafox, a leading global offshore jack-up company. He was one of the pilot participants for the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management and has plans to use the qualification as part of the implementation of Seafox’s accident prevention policy.

Bart said: “With the introduction of the Offshore Safety Directive in Europe, it is important that all our staff work to the highest possible standards. We will use this qualification to provide people with core process safety knowledge, not only from a QHSE perspective but for operational managers up to CEO level as well.”

Protecting the public
Robert Williams, Health and Safety and Environmental Manager for Wales and West Utilities, also achieved the NEBOSH HSE Certificate. At Wales and West Utilities it is a business priority to ensure there are measures in place to protect life and property – it employs approximately 1300 people and supplies gas to around 7.5 million homes and businesses. It also holds a RoSPA Gold Award and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM) Gas Industry Safety Award.

Robert said: “It is part of our mantra here to protect life and, of course, it’s essential when you’re working with a hazardous substance like natural gas. “We have health and safety professionals within my team who have just come to the industry from different backgrounds. We feel the NEBOSH HSE Certificate in Process Safety Management would be good for them as it provides the core knowledge they need.”

The National Examining Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) was formed in 1979 and is an independent examining board and awarding body with charitable status. NEBOSH offers a comprehensive range of globally-recognised, vocationallyrelated qualifications designed to meet the health, safety, environmental and risk management needs of all places of work in both the private and public sectors. Courses leading to NEBOSH qualifications attract around 50,000 candidates annually and are offered by over 600 course providers around the world.

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