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Risky Business

March 14, 2016

 

You can tell you're getting old when your Colleagues start to retire, your Mentors pass away and the Companies you work for and/or sites you worked on no longer exist. I'm now in my 30th year in industry and am embarking on (what I intend to be) my last career change and return to Consulting. In ancient times I would be getting close to the 4th quarter of the game but nowadays I suspect this is only the half-time break (and time to switch ends).


So far, I've worked in apparently dangerous industries (such as explosives, where men push cotton into vats of nitric acid with their hands and processes which can only transfer via gravity without pumps or valves) which have an excellent safety record and seemingly innocuous industries which have the potential for (and often the reality of) major accidents - Go figure !


I've been fortunate enough to have been educated by Sir Gordon Beveridge (an IChemE President) and Frank Crawley, trained in HAZOP by Brian Tyler (co-author with Frank  of the IChemE HAZOP Guide to Best Practice), had the genuine pleasure of meeting Trevor Kletz and when I graduated, oil was $25/bbl and ICI was still the prized employer for aspiring Chemical Engineers (and where I started in 1985 at Ardeer)


My HAZOP facilitation (noun: any activity that makes tasks for others easy) experience has ranged from lab-scale studies to Australia's largest single-resource development. I'll be honest, I've got mixed feelings on the technique after nearly 3 decades of the initial inertia of "What can Cause No Flow..." - but that's a topic for another day (post).


They say "it's not rocket science" and I can testify that it's really not. I was involved in designing a demilitarization plant to remove hydrazine and IRFNA (Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid) from Lance Missiles. If Fuming Nitric Acid sounds bad, it's inhibited with HF so you can image the challenges that presents; but fundamentally processes can be safely operated if you understand the materials and the equipment and have an appreciation of WHAT they do, WHY they fail and HOW to protect against these failures. Essentially the 3 questions posed by the HSE after the Buncefield Investigation.

 

  • Do we understand what can go wrong?

  • Do we know what our systems are to prevent this happening?

  • Do we have information to assure us that they are working effectively?

Unfortunately I've worked on two different sites which have experienced failure of protective systems which resulted in a fatality on one site and major asset damage (and some lucky escapes) on 2 separate occasions on another .


Some time ago (as a loyal IChemE member) I bought People, Pipes & Processes which is advertised as "A short history of chemical engineering, this book tells the story of a profession which has made possible much of what we take for granted as the benefits and conveniences of everyday life."

 

 

Often Chemical (or Process) Engineers are themselves taken for granted and now I see this as People, Plant & Processes (and also Protection) but the processes are more procedural than chemical.


Through my work (and I must credit LinkedIn) I now have colleagues & friends from Auckland to Alberta who all share my professional passion for Loss Prevention and although my posts (and my Chomical alter ego) may appear flippant or disrespectful to the topic, these are deliberately intended to provoke thought & discussion about a serious but often misunderstood (and let's be honest - dry) subject. I content myself with knowing that Trevor Kletz had a sense of humour - as anyone who has read his numerous books will know.

Those of you of a certain age may remember "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the A-Team." Although my posts may suggest otherwise, I'm not as vain as 'Face' or angry as 'BA' but consider myself to be an effective maverick like 'Murdoch' and I really do like a plan (cunning or otherwise) like 'Hannibal'.


I'm going to keep challenging convention and future topics on my to do (post) list include:

  • CHAZOP - Mythology and Methodology

  • BowTies - The Best Thing Since Sliced (Swiss) Cheese

  • Safety Lifecycle - Circle of Life or Road to Nowhere

Now, let me introduce you to:

 

 

As well as conventional Risk Assessment & Management services, I plan to develop and deliver innovative software & solutions and offer insights into recurring Process Safety Incident themes including;

  • Analysis of CSB Investigations & Marsh 100 Top Losses

  • Daily reminders (e.g. Tweets @PSIncidents and/or RSS) of major process incidents inspired by the great work of Calvin Simpson.

And from this I aim to prompt those who hold both the duty & budget that (to quote Dame Judith Hackett):

  • We need leaders who know what they don’t know and are willing to learn.

  • We need leaders who can live with a chronic sense of unease and who can spot the warning signs of complacency creeping in.

  • We need leaders to give the same priority to process safety wherever they are in the world – because the threat of process related incidents occurring is the same worldwide.

Lastly, some observations or thoughts to leave you with...


Big Data does not necessarily mean better Information, Knowledge does not always translate to Wisdom and Learning from Incidents is more than Alerts - it requires Action.


Beware Consultants bearing letters after their name without the 'battle-scars' or 'flight hours' to preach about what they've actually practised. A Certificate does not make a component or a person reliable or 'safe' and conversely the lack of a certificate does not make a component or a person unreliable or 'unsafe'.


Don't get obsessed if it's an Occupational Safety or Process Safety issue - the victim's family won't care !


Functional Safety & Alarm Management are NOT the domain of Control & Instrument Engineers - don't let the tail wag the dog!


Know the difference between Alarms, Alerts and Advisory's.


Absence of Evidence does often indicate Evidence of Absence.


What Doesn't Leak Doesn't Harm.


Finally, "If you have a problem, if no one else can help..." you can find me at dhatch@psintegrity.com and you can hire me. This is a risky business and I do take it very seriously.

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