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Nathan Isles, 636418.

CHEN30015, 2015. Assignment 2.
Process Engineering Safety: What can we do to stop future
incidents?
Chemical processing facilities have been historically infamous scenes of safety
accidents. It is by studying these accidents, however, that we strive to achieve
an understanding of their underlying causes and prevent similar future incidents
from occurring. Repeatedly, in accident analysis, the same problems emerge:
deficiencies in design, human factors and hazard and knowledge management.
Designs must be inherently safe. A process’s design must integrate the lessons
learnt into its system and procedures. Safety must be part of design, not
something added afterwards. A more complicated system is more hazardous,
maintenance-demanding and energy-hungry (Hopkins, 2000). Simplification and
intensification reduces these limitations. Multiple and notionally independent
layers of safety measures, designed so that no single failure can precipitate a
serious safety incident can occur should be designed into the system – not added
as an after-thought (Kletz & Amyotte, 2010).
Catastrophic industrial incidents are not the result of a single error but rather a
chain of decisions that originate with management that often create latent failure
(Appleton, 1991). If leaders take a lax position on procedure safety, similar
attitudes are likely to be bred among employees. There must be a strong process
safety leader; someone who can drive an informing culture and therefore drive a
change in behaviour (I. McCleod, personal communication, September 7, 2015).
Someone willing to step outside the comfort of offices and paperwork. The focus
needs to shift from not only performing hazard management, to physical human
interactions and owning the critical issues at hand. That is, from paper-based
procedures to worker (in all facets) culture and consequently behavioural
changes. The leader should seek to engage employees in process safety
management and treat operators as solutions to be harnessed, not problems to
be solved (Dekker, 2015).
Employees should adhere to site guidelines not just because they’re written in a
document, but because they aware of and informed about the risks they face
and want to protect themselves. Again, this requires visible leadership; someone
capable of influence and creating lasting changes in workplace culture. Through
these actions, a company should aim to create and nurture an environment of
constant mindfulness – that there is always the possibility that something could
go wrong (I. McCleod, personal communication, September 7, 2015).
However, merely being mindful of the possibility of an accident is not sufficient.
The creation and maintenance of a culture of safety must be tied in with
adequate knowledge (S.Lewis, personal communication, September 11, 2015). It
is critical that operators not only understand how to perform a task, but also the
underlying principles which dictate why the task must performed as instructed.
People in the industry are given immense amounts of training to absorb. Again,
emphasis is often placed upon the procedure rather than the underlying why (I.
McCleod, personal communication, September 7, 2015). Unless it is constantly
reinforced, it is unlikely that operators will retain this training for very long.
Presentation of regulations and rules in this manner takes away from the
intended purpose: the protection and wellbeing of the workers themselves. The
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A (1999a) Managing Major Hazards: The Lessons of the Moura Mine Disaster. VEC International Production for ICI Group Safety. and. Second Edition.. Kletz. 2015). (1991) Learning from Accidents: the Piper Alpha Oil Platform Disaster [videocassette]. Deficiencies in emergency training. justifications rarely extend beyond this. Allen and Unwin. They must be able to justify why and how they either improve or are no longer required as part of the system – from both an operational and reliability standpoint (M. 636418. process system status tends to be considered not from the viewpoint of the operators. Sydney. management and systems. Lapworth. Annandale. 7(1):3-14. Hopkins. behaviours and understanding of every individual. 2038. Injury Control and Safety Promotion. CRC Press: Taylor & Francis Group. Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical) 1978. hazard management and leadership in developing a culture of on-site safety. Australia. Its quality is the sum of the attitudes. Process Plants: A Handbook for Inherently Safer Design. Sydney. dangerously becomes merely about ‘ticking the box’. both on site and in management. behind the critical action which led to disaster. focus tends to shift to the completion of the procedure itself. Hence it is also not uncommon for such leaders to cut facility maintenance to meet board costs. Dekker. As Sir Brian Appleton said: “safety is not an intellectual exercise to keep us employed – it is a matter of life and death. Page 2 of 3 . M. Managing Director of Ibis Business Solutions. 140-157. M. Reason.” Rarely do company leaders ensure this is done. September 11.Nathan Isles. CRC Press. Private communication with Lapworth. Quinlan. NSW. P (2010). there has existed a set of deficiencies. A (2000) Lessons from Longford: The Esso Gas Plant Explosion. In every accident throughout history. S (2015) Safety Differently – Human Factors for a New Era. J (2000b) Safety Paradoxes and safety culture. & Amyotte. Monash University. The Federation Press: PO Box 45. such training is often perceived as an unnecessary expense. Thus it is also crucial that they themselves adopt a broader understanding and employ a high standard of rigor around managing operational and/or training changes. culture. Safety is about leadership. (2014) Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster – Learning from Fatal Incidents in Mines and Other High Hazard Workplaces. but an economic perspective. personal communication. CCH. For them. T. Hopkins. References: Appleton. B.

I. Private communication with Lewis. S.Nathan Isles. Bachelor of Engineering (Chemical).. Bachelor of Engineering (Hons. 1987. Civil). 636418. Director of safety for The Level Crossing Removal Authority. 1984. Private communication with McCleod. Monash University. Page 3 of 3 . University of Melbourne. Heath. Safe and Environment Manager for Terminals Pty Ltd.