20 June, 2019

Process Safety Management: Gap Assessment/Audit

Process Safety Management is a series of discrete but mutually complementary processes that collectively serve to deliver safe and reliable production operations. It is important that we make the distinction between Personal or Occupational Safety, and Process Safety. The hazards that give rise to Personal or Occupational Safety serve to affect one or more individual workers for each occurrence. On the other hand, Process Safety generally relates to Major Accidents which typically involve the release of dangerous materials, energy in the form of fires and/or explosions, or both, and has the potential to cause multiple personnel fatalities. The difference therefore is primarily one of scale. Process Safety incidents have the potential to be catastrophic, and this is a very important distinction. It is not the case that Personal or Occupational Safety is unimportant, it is merely a recognition that Process Safety events have the potential to be considerably more severe.

Integrity Management is an integral element of the wider Process Safety Management function whereby both are interminably linked and are vital for safe and reliable operations in Major Accident Hazard facilities.

The primary premise, in the context of both Process Safety Management and Asset Integrity Management, is that the hazards associated with a given plant or facility must be properly and robustly understood, and the associated risks must be rigorously assessed and quantified.  This serves to facilitate the identification of the most appropriate measures to prevent, detect, control or mitigate these. A strategy which deliberately targets the most ‘at risk’ systems and/or components at a given facility will serve to ensure that the effectiveness of those measures and resources being deployed in the management thereof are maximised.

The management strategy should be centred on the well-known Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, where tasks are developed and formalised using a risk-based plan, and the key learnings which are observed as each are implemented allow further fine tuning and a more focused series of proactive measures to be developed each time the cycle has been completed.

This iterative cycle also includes managerial aspects, such as:

  1. Policy, goals and objectives, resource planning
  2. Systems and processes, communication, training
  3. Performance monitoring, audits, corrective actions
  4. Management of change

The planned activities are generally embedded within an integrated plan for the asset, thereby optimising the effectiveness of the means and measures as are used in Process Safety Management and Asset Integrity Management.

process safety audit

Audits/Gap Analyses

The quality and overall effectiveness of Asset Integrity Management systems generally improves when the over-arching concept of Process Safety Management is adopted, however Asset Integrity Management remains a complex and difficult process to get right, as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of Process Safety incidents involve failures in mechanical integrity of process equipment.

Process Safety Management and Asset Integrity Management are primary functions for assuring safe and reliable production operations.  However, unforeseen weaknesses or ‘gaps’ in those processes may lead to Major Accident events, where the consequential effects are either multiple fatalities or catastrophic asset damage, or both.  In simple terms therefore, the management processes need to be holistic, and application must also be meticulous as any shortfalls or ‘gaps’ in either have the potential to be catastrophic.

AIE works to support operators of Major Accident Hazard facilities by conducting comprehensive Audits (or ‘Gap Analyses’) of their existing Process Safety Management and Asset Integrity Management systems. The Audits are a vital element of on-going performance assessment; they shall serve to examine the scope and extent of what is in place currently and how this is performing, identifying weaknesses and/or gaps. This shall then serve to define the means by which those weaknesses and/or gaps may be addressed and rectified going forward.

The Audit process is conducted in three stages:

  1. Identify and bench-mark what is in place currently against any pertinent Regulatory requirements, industry norms, standards and best practices
  2. Identify what should be in place and if there are gaps or weaknesses in key processes that should be made good before going forward
  3. Development of an action plan to address the gaps and shortfalls

This latter plan is invariably considered in the context of ‘risk’, where those gaps or weaknesses that constitute the highest risk are prioritised for enactment over those that are of a potentially lesser risk status.

The scope of a given Audit is usually tailored to suit the primary objectives thereof (such as performance bench-marking, Regulatory/Corporate compliance and the like).

Why AIE for your Process Safety Audits Requirements?

AIE is a leader in the development of standardised operational management systems for major accident hazard facilities. Process Safety Management is embedded into every system we develop or optimise; we are recognised by most international and local energy providers for our strengths in this area.

AIE has a standardised and mature process for completing Process Safety and Asset Integrity audits which has been successfully executed over a range of assets across the MENA region and beyond. Our audit experience includes compliance reviews against Legal Frameworks/Regulatory Programs and International Technical Standards for both onshore and offshore assets.

If you would like to know how AIE’s process safety experts can support your operations, please visit our contact us page and we will promptly respond to your inquiry.

We are immediately available to support any requests or
enquires relating to our asset integrity products and services.

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