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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.

Gas Protection System Allows Safe Transit Through Dangerous Areas

Source: United Safety | 12 December 2013

A vehicle equipped with the Air Qruise system.

In 2003, sour gas forced the evacuation of 64,000 residents and killed 243 people in Gaoqiao, Chonqing, China, during a massive leak that covered an area of 25 km2. In January 2013, a sour gas leak near Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, forced police to close a 100 km stretch of a major highway.

The industry has been reminded time and again of the importance of continuously monitoring gas in and around work sites. At concentrations ranging from 250 to 1,000 ppm, hydrogen sulfide is deadly and can kill in seconds. In the event of an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulphide, every second counts.

“Today, in both industrial and upstream facilities, there are a range of solutions available to ensure the safety of personnel in the event of a toxic gas release. There is a gap, however, in ensuring that personnel stay safe while in transit,” said Elie Daher, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for United Safety.

To close the gap, he proposes that the industry needs a means of transport equipped with state-of-the-art gas-detection electronics, a compact air supply system, and rapid-deployment breathing masks to provide an immediate transport out of a toxic release site.

He calls this new technology the Air Qruise. The Air Qruise was launched by Al Hosn Gas Chief Executive Officer Saif Ahmed Al Ghafli on 10 November 2013 at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference.

The technical configurations of the Air Qruise—including the air supply module, air-monitoring systems, automatic alarm systems, and intelligent screen interface that provides instant reporting of vital information—are customizable to suit any form of transport from a bike to a bus for mass evacuation.

“Operating in high sour wells comes with the risk of hydrogen sulphide gas release. It is important to have customized safety solutions in place before it’s too late,” Daher said.

The objective of the Air Qruise is to support an emergency response plan that is quick, effective, and appropriate in order to protect the public, the company, and personnel from fatalities or irreversible health effects, he said.

Implementing a Process-Safety Program

Source: JPT | 12 December 2013

Between 2006 and 2009, Petronas Carigali embarked on a process-safety program driven by concerns over an increasing trend of process-related incidents. The program focused on defining explicit process-safety expectations and then putting in place the required processes to intensify implementation and mandatory compliance. Some 3–4 years into the program, tangible improvement can be felt across the organization.