In a previous blog post, we talked about process safety as a way to help you avoid major incidents. While it’s a fairly new concept to the Canadian oil and gas industry, it’s a way of addressing safety that has been used in the U.S. for some time.

The process safety resources and guidelines referenced in that post are now complete, and available as a free download. But let’s start at the beginning:

What is process safety?

Process safety provides a disciplined framework for managing the integrity of operating systems handling hazardous substances. A well developed process safety program has the potential to help companies manage day to day safety issues, as well as the risk of those low frequency/very high consequence incidents that keep us awake at night.

What does that mean to you?

As an organization, you undoubtedly have safety processes in place. Perhaps some are more successful than others. Process safety provides relatively simple tools to help you take what you already know and do, and become more intentional and effective in managing the risk of major incidents.

Curtis Friesen, of Ensign Energy Services and a member of Enform’s process safety committee, explained that most Canadian oil and gas companies typically manage personal safety in a highly effective way. “The emphasis right now tends to be on slips, trips and falls; working at heights and other industrial safety type hazards,” said Curtis. “But process safety involves more of an engineering analysis which requires a different skillset.”

If you’re managing safety from the personal side of things, you’re opening your organization up to what is potentially a corporation killer.

Let’s not reinvent the wheel

Process safety might be a relatively new concept, or term, in the Canadian upstream oil and gas industry, but when you read the guideline you’ll probably find that you’re already doing some (or hopefully much!) of what it contains. The idea is to use what’s working for you, and build around that.

“Managing process safety risk is different from managing personal safety risks alone,” Curtis explained. “Most companies do risk assessments – job safety analysis – but that doesn’t take it far enough for process safety risks. Companies don’t always understand the complexities of protecting against the danger of major incidents.”

The guideline offers a practical, step-by-step process to help you define your major accident hazards and controls. But more importantly, it then offers a simple method for ensuring that the most critical controls are implemented effectively. With low probability events, you need to actively monitor your controls, assigning accountability for their implementation and monitoring — because you can’t wait for an incident to show they’re not working. By then it’s too late.

One of our hopes is that when you ask, ‘are we safe?’, you won’t just be asking ‘how many injuries did we have?’. Instead you’ll be asking, ‘how did our most important controls work in preventing the worst from happening this year?’. You’ll be monitoring prevention strategies, not nasty outcomes.

To learn more, download the free process safety resources.

Even though the guideline is now available, the committee still isn’t done. Stay tuned as they continue to produce new resources and information to help with this crucial piece in the safety puzzle.