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Using Smart Field Devices To Improve Safety System Performance

Source: International Society of Automation | 11 February 2014

Safety monitoring software can use data from smart field devices to improve safety system performance and operation.

  • Many process plants have smart sensors, instruments, and valves installed as part of their safety systems.
  • These smart field devices can provide a host of useful information to the safety system.
  • Safety monitoring software helps make sense of the information from smart field devices by turning their raw data into actionable information.

Any process plant that handles products, feedstock, or fuels that are the least bit hazardous (flammable, toxic, or otherwise environmentally dangerous) has safety concerns. Operating in compliance with regulations and standards is a way of life for oil, gas, petrochemical, biofuel, and many commodity chemical producers. But beyond compliance, companies want and need to protect their people, equipment, and the surrounding environment.

Applicable standards include ANSI/ISA-84.00.01-2004 Parts 1–3 (IEC 61511 Mod) and IEC 61508, along with facility-recognized best procedures and practices. Compliance with these standards ensures that the plant is not simply within the letter of the law; it helps the plant operate with minimal potential for incidents and injuries.

Undertaking this effort begins with plant hazard and operability studies and the layer of protection analysis (LOPA) methodology. Some situations may call for a quantitative risk analysis, as provided by the Center for Chemical Process Safety and indicated by ANSI/ISA-84.00.01-2004 Part 3, Appendix F.

Performing a LOPA helps identify which identified hazards require safety instrumented functions (SIFs) and the required probability of failure on demand for each to lower the risk to a tolerable level. Performing a LOPA is a main step toward ensuring that requirements under ANSI/ISA-84.00.01-2004 Parts 1–3 (IEC 61511 Mod) are met.

Once the safety instrumented system (SIS) is designed and implemented according to the safety requirement specification, its operation must be maintained and monitored to ensure integrity of the SIF and to ensure ongoing compliance with standards. Any changes to the hardware, such as new equipment, new field devices, different products, or different specified operations and processes must be taken into account using a management of change procedure. Any malfunctions or other process issues must also be accounted for, typically by proof testing and monitoring the SIS along with its associated field devices, such as sensors, instruments, valves, and logic solvers.


Report Claims Oil Trains Could Cause More Deaths Without Keystone

Source: Reuters | 4 February 2014

Replacing the Keystone XL pipeline with oil-laden freight trains from Canada may result in an average of six additional rail-related deaths per year, according to a US State Department report that is adding to pressure for President Barack Obama to approve the line.

The long-awaited study, released on 31 January, focused on the environmental impact of TransCanada’s USD-5.4-billion pipeline but also spent several pages analyzing the potential human impact of various ways to transport oil, using historical injury and fatality statistics for railways and oil pipelines.

Although it excluded the runaway oil train derailment that killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec, last summer, the tragedy that first shone a critical light on the rapidly expanding trend in shipping crude by rail, the findings highlight the risks or railway transport vs. pipes.

Shipping another 830,000 B/D of crude “would result in an estimated 49 additional injuries and six additional fatalities for the No Action rail scenarios compared to one additional injury and no fatalities” per year if Keystone XL is built, according to the report.

Keystone XL would carry 830,000 B/D from Alberta’s oil sands to US refiners but has been awaiting a presidential permit for more than 5 years. The “No Action” options refer to the likely alternative outcomes if Obama rejects the permit or the project is not built for some other reason.

The report also showed that carrying crude by rail, instead of by pipeline, was likely to result in a higher number of oil spills and a larger amount of leakage over time.

Column: What Is Blocking Your Safety Communication?

Source: Workplace Communicator Blog | 28 January 2014

One of the major frustrations of being a safety leader is that it is often difficult to get your safety messages understood and acted upon correctly.

It can be very challenging when you have language and geography barriers, age differences, and people just not listening because they suffer from the highly contagious “it won”t happen to me” bias or “I’ve heard this all before” contagion.

Then, there is the issue of trying to get people to listen to what is said, not what they think is being said. So often, safety professionals feel so frustrated that their safety messages are being misinterpreted. Being able to create the right safety message that gets attention, that people can understand, remember, and then take the right action upon is crucial for successful safety leadership.

So what can you do to remove safety blocks that people put up to resist safety messaging?

Column: The Third Law and Perfect Safety

Source: The PSM Report | 22 January 2014

The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that it is impossible for any system to reduce its entropy to zero in a finite number of operations. A safety incident is an example of a system that is not in a zero entropy state—i.e., one that is not perfectly ordered. And it makes sense. No person is perfect, no organization is perfect. No matter how much time, effort, money and goodwill we spend on improving safety, incidents will occur. We live in the real world of Aristotle and Augustine—not that of Plato and his ideal forms.

Looked at in this light, perfect safety can never happen. Nevertheless, we should strive toward it because, otherwise, we accept that people will be injured—which is something that none of us want or accept and we certainly do not want to quantify.

Federal Board Rejects Safety Recommendations Stemming From Chevron Refinery Fire

Source: San Jose Mercury News | 22 January 2014

In a move described by agency officials as highly unusual, a divided US Chemical Safety Board refused to endorse the centerpiece recommendation from its staff’s 115-page report on the massive Chevron refinery fire in 2012.

At the heart of the split, made public in a packed Richmond City Council chamber, was whether the system for regulating oil refineries should be overhauled to mirror the European model that focuses on continually reducing accident risks, as proposed in the staff report, or whether more emphasis should be placed on strengthening the current oversight system.

The safety board recommendation, which would force the industry to demonstrate that it is operating as safely as possible through written reports reviewed by regulators, has come under fire from industry, the scientific community, and labor and political interests. Many of the concerns center on whether the so-called safety case regime would add unnecessary costs, complexity, and uncertainty to the monitoring of oil refineries and detract from efforts to enhance local and state laws and resources.

“There may be more immediate benefits from beefing up the current system,” said Kim Nibarger, a health and safety specialist for the United Steelworkers. “We don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

Officials Call for More Regulations To Prevent Crude Train Accidents

Source: Rigzone | 22 January 2014

US government officials say the series of accidents over the past year involving railcars carrying crude oil highlights the need for greater regulations of crude transportation on railways and more pipeline infrastructure.

US Sen. John Hoeven (R-North Dakota) told Platts Energy Week on 12 January that more pipelines to move Bakken oil from North Dakota to refineries are needed to ease safety concerns after the 30 December rail accident near Casselton in eastern North Dakota, where a BNSF Railway train carrying crude collided with another train, setting off an explosion and fire that prompted the evacuation of 1,400 local residents.

On 13 January, the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) reported that 18 of the 20 tank cars that derailed were punctured and more than 400,000 gallons of crude oil were estimated to have been released. Damage resulting from the accident is estimated at USD 6.1 million.


Column: At What Point Does Safety Become Overly Intrusive?

Source: Phil LaDuke | 15 January 2014

With the rising costs associated with health care, an aging workforce more likely to require treatment for chronic illness, and the simple fact that people in good physical condition tend to be injured less severely than those who are out of shape, organizations are increasingly able to argue that what you do on your own time is indeed their business; but is it?

Off-the-job injuries often spill over onto the job and create sticky situations. A worker who twists his ankle in a pickup game may claim the injury happened at work, or a worker who, eager to get home to weekend fun, may twist his ankle at work and not recognize the severity of the injury until the pickup game. Ergonomic injuries can be exacerbated by daily home activities, and even if the injury doesn’t ever cross over into the workplace, a worker crippled doing yard work is still a valuable resource lost.

On one hand, our lifestyle choices can have a profound influence—not just on our own safety but on the safety of those around us. On the other hand, few of us feel that a paycheck and medical benefits give employers the right to dictate whether or not we can smoke, drink to excess, or overeat. Clearly, there is a line between an employer’s right to intervene in employees’ destructive habits even though they are on the employees’ personal time, but it is often difficult to find that line in a way that all parties believe it to be equitable and fair.

Column: Process Safety—A Hegelian Dialectic

Source: The PSM Report | 9 January 2014

The thoughts of the German philosopher Georg Hegel are complex, and his writing style was hardly succinct. However, one of the concepts that he developed—his version of dialectic—is both simple and useful.

A system starts in an initial condition: the thesis. In reaction to this thesis, an antithesis develops. From each of these, a synthesis is created; it is rooted in both thesis and the antithesis but is not identical to either.

An example commonly used to illustrate this concept is the political world of late eighteenth century France. The thesis was the aristocratic, monarchical government (l’ancien régime). It was replaced by its antithesis: the republican government (aux lanternes). These two systems were replaced in turn by the synthesis: the Napoleonic empire, which had roots in both of its predecessors but was identical to neither.

The world of process plant safety can be looked at in the same way.

Column: How To Avoid Safety Failures

Source: ProAct Safety | 3 January 2014

Late business guru Peter Drucker warned, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” Injures and incidents are failures in your systems. Injury prevention tools, culture, strategy, capabilities, and focus are part of the elements that make up your systems. Are yours aligned to focus on failing less or achieving success? Both are important, providing different types of organizational performance clarity. However, I’ve yet to see great sustained accomplishments in business, personal life, or sporting events obtained by setting and working towards a goal of not screwing up.

Leaders responsible for establishing strategy must move past what I call “The Perpetual Cycle of Avoiding Failures” to experience different results and performance in safety and culture.

OSHA and the Oil and Gas Industry Are Partnering To Address an Upsurge in Fatalities

Source: Safety+Health | 3 January 2014

Employment is booming in the oil and gas industry. Russ Shinert, midcontinent unit safety director of Salt Lake City-based Savage, described the draw for workers: “It’s good, hard, honest work, and you get paid well for it, and for the most part it’s long-term.”

But, it can be dangerous. Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows a record number of deaths in the oil and gas extraction sector in 2012—even as workplace deaths trended downward overall. In total, 138 oil and gas workers lost their lives in 2012—a 23% increase from 2011.

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez expressed concern in a 22-August statement regarding the BLS data. “Job gains in oil and gas and construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable,” Perez said. “Employers must take job hazards seriously and live up to their legal and moral obligation to send their workers home safe every single day.”

Through efforts such as a nationwide safety stand-down in November, OSHA and the oil and gas industry are collaborating to address the layers of dangers these workers face.

Rail Explosions Won’t Curb Soaring Oil Shipments

The derailment of a train carrying oil in North Dakota on 30 December and the subsequent evacuations caused by its explosion could draw more regulatory scrutiny to rail shipments of crude. But the soaring use of trains to move oil is a long-term trend that is not likely to change soon, analysts say.

The incident “will continue discussion of safety issues surrounding train transport of crude oil,” investment banking firm Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said in a note to investors on Tuesday. The derailment “could pressure the permitting processes currently ongoing for rail facilities” on the west coast, the note said.

But the trend of heavy rail use for moving oil is here to stay, the firm said.

“Rail will be the long-term transportation solution out of the Bakken (Shale play of North Dakota) to the US East and West Coasts due to the lack of pipeline infrastructure to those refining centers,” the firm said.

Discussion Regarding the Proposed Changes to OSHA’s PSM

Source: OSHA | 30 December 2013

OSHA has proposes to update and expand its process safety management (PSM) standard for the first time since 1992. The agency has put out a request for information, seeking public comments on the proposed changes.

Some general comments to do with the OSHA material include the following:

  • Much of the discussion and justification for changes refer to actual incidents. OSHA seems to be using a case-based approach to process safety.
  • There is considerable cross-referencing to other federal and state standards.
  • It is likely that the number of companies and facilities covered by the standard will increase substantially. Many of them will be small organizations that do not currently have process safety programs.
  • The proposals to do with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practice reflect a healthy focus on engineering.