Safety Culture

Performance indicators are key safety components

October 5, 2012
How can we measure process safety performance? A person first needs to get a true understanding of the words: process, safety, management.

The first word is Process. PSM is concerned with process issues such as fires, explosions and the release of toxic gases caused by process-oriented issues such as corrosion, chemical reaction and the inadvertent mixing of hazardous chemicals .

The second word in the term PSM is Safety. The initial driving force for most PSM programs was the need to meet a safety regulation and to reduce safety incidents related to process upsets and hazardous material release.ISHN1012_F12_fig1_300px.jpg

The third word is Management. A manager is taken to be anyone who has some degree of control over the process, including operators, engineers and maintenance workers. The word management also means that PSM is not just about equipment and instrumentation, but also covers issues as Employee Participation, Operating Procedures and Management of Change.

PSM is a systematic approach to major accident hazard management. It is a part of safety management, which focuses on the concerns of major hazards impacting safety, environmental damage and business losses. Oil & gas companies are significant users of PSM methods, particularly where there are hazardous processes or large inventories of flammable or toxic materials.

Rocking the industry

On March 23, 2005, BP’s Texas City, Texas refinery experienced a catastrophic process accident. This incident took the lives of 15 workers and injured more than 170. The BP refinery was celebrating a safety record at the time of the explosion.

This safety record was devoid of the true measurements of the current status of the facility; it was solely based on personal safety not process safety.

On the evening of April 20, 2010, a gas release and subsequent explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig working on the Macondo exploration well for BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people died as a result of the accident, and others were injured. The fire burned for 36 hours before the rig sank, and hydrocarbons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was closed and sealed, Deepwater Horizon sank and the Macondo well discharged hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months before it was contained.

At that time BP had an aspiration goal of “no accidents, no harm to people,” had emphasized personal safety in recent years and had achieved significant improvement in personal safety performance, but BP did not emphasize process safety. BP mistakenly interpreted improving personal injury rates as an indication of acceptable process safety performance at its U.S. refineries. BP’s reliance on this data, combined with an inadequate process safety understanding, created a false sense of confidence that BP was properly addressing process safety risks.

BP appeared to have established a relatively effective personal safety management system by embedding personal safety aspirations and expectations within the U.S. refining workforce. However, BP had not effectively implemented its corporate-level inspirational guidelines and expectations relating to process risk. BP had not implemented an integrated, comprehensive, and effective process safety management system for its five U.S. refineries.

 Not all hazards are the same or can cause equal consequences. Personal or occupational safety hazards such as slip, falls, cuts and vehicle accidents usually affect one individual worker.

On the other hand, process safety hazards may cause major accidents involving the release of potentially dangerous materials, fires and explosions or both. Process safety incidents can have catastrophic effects and can result in multiple injuries and fatalities, and substantial economic, property and environmental damage.

You don’t improve what you don’t measure

The Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS) was established in 1985 by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) for the express purpose of assisting industry in avoiding or mitigating catastrophic chemical accidents. An essential element of any improvement program is the measure of existing and future performance. To continuously improve upon process safety performance, it is essential that companies in the chemical and petroleum industries implement effective leading and lagging process safety metrics. A description of three types of metrics:

“Lagging” Metrics – a retrospective set of metrics that are based on incidents that meet the threshold of severity that should be reported as part of the industry-wide process safety metric.

“Leading” Metrics – a forward looking set of metrics which indicate the performance of the key work processes, operating discipline, or layers of protection that prevent incidents.

“Near Miss” and other internal Lagging Metrics – the description of less severe incidents (i.e., below the threshold for inclusion in the industry lagging metric), or unsafe conditions which activated one or more layers of protection. Although these events are actual events (i.e., a “lagging” metric), they are generally considered to be a good indicator of conditions that could ultimately lead to a more severe incident.

It is strongly recommended that all companies incorporate each of these three types of metrics into their internal process safety management system.

Such method of performance measurement of process safety was one of the recommendations by the national commission that investigated the Texas City incident: “BP should develop, implement, maintain, and periodically update an integrated set of leading and lagging performance indicators [or more effectively monitoring the process safety performance of the U.S. refineries by BP’s refining line management, executive management (including the Group Chief Executive), and Board of Directors. In addition, BP should work with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and with industry, labor organizations, other governmental agencies, and other organizations to develop a consensus set of leading and lagging indicators for process safety performance for use in the refining and chemical processing industries.”

I believe that if that measure of process safety performance is correctly implemented, it can lead us to be sure that there will not be another piper alpha or Macondo-type incident. 




• National commission on the BP Deepwater horizon oil spill and offshore drilling

• Center for chemical process safety (CCPS)

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Recent Articles by Khaled Shehab

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Khaled Shehab
October 19, 2012
The industry leadership first needs to be clear between the boundaries that differentiate personnel safety from process safety. It needs to rise above its common misconceptions and lack of awareness by having a deeper understanding of the subject. While personnel safety is important, the leadership needs to realize process safety is vital to not just an individual company but indeed the entire industry’s overall wellbeing. They are consumed with personal safety not process safety. This is a fatal flaw. Industry spends by far too much time and resources to prevent slips, trips, fails, and struck by incidents because that is the yardstick the government has designed. This measurement is easily manipulated to keep the number low. I have experienced the pressure workers feel to not report an injury. I can state with all certainty that the current method of measuring does not give an accurate picture of how well the facility is operated.

Drilling QHSE Consultant

Khaled Shehab
April 7, 2013
2 Killed,3 Injured In Texas Well Blowout A well blowout near Barstow, Texas has claimed the life of two men and injured three others. According to a Ward County Sheriff's Office press release, the Ward County Sheriff's Office, Barstow Volunteer Fire Department, Ward County EMS and Reeves County EMS all responded to the scene along with crews from Anadarko and Basic Energy. The Ward County Sheriff's Office said around 9 a.m. on Friday, they received a report of a well blowout just east of Barstow on an Anadarko Petroleum lease. The release said, "It was determined upon arrival that a pulling unit belonging to Basic Energy Services was in the process of rigging up on an Anadarko Well when the well blew out. The explosion blew the crew off of the well head." Juan Rios was pronounced dead at the scene and Olegario Rios was airlifted to Odessa Medical Center where he later died. Roman Galindo and Jose Cruz were both taken to University Medical Center by AeroCare. Eric Finley, spokesman for UMC, says they are both in the burn unit there. Galindo is in critical condition and Cruz is in serious condition as of Friday night. A consultant on the location, Don Owen, was transported to Reeves County Hospital by a private vehicle, treated for gas inhalation and later released. The press release says the well was shut in by crews on the location. The cause of the incident is being investigated by OSHA. Remember, if you know the story of Macondo, that the higher ups in the command chain were dancing and otherwise distracted and not aware of or perhaps not knowing that leading indicators in process safety were signaling poor performance and escalating risk and ultimately disaster ahead. They were oblivious because they were only observing personal safety indicators that were signaling them that things were going great in fact they were awarding the team a safety award based on personal safety and absolutely oblivious to the process safety indicators that we all agree would have signaled them to shut the operation down completely and would have been the end of the dancing and unconcerned email chatter

BBS Feedback

David Sarkus
October 3, 2013
I believe what is important here is the type of daily feedback received by the first group that experienced significantly positive changes in the use of hearing protection. Seemingly, the feedback was informational and persuasive in that it helped to align actions, values, and beliefs / attitudes. It would also matter who provided the feedback, i.e. credible peers, supervisors, outside or internal experts. There are many different kinds of feedback that should provide for "different types" of changes in employee actions and underlying attitudes / beliefs. Thank you Sir.


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