The energy and utility sectors can be home to dangerous places to work. From offshore oil and gas facilities, through onshore gas plants and refineries to the end user via gas pipelines significant hazards are nearby. Although companies take measures to protect the workforce and the public, their systems can be derailed by common and known pitfalls.
This is the first blog in a series of five that reflects on the most serious pitfalls that I have learned about over my 30-year+ career helping companies manage major accident risk and safety.
As with all accidents, the worst of any disaster is felt by the victims - both workers and the public - and their families.
At G2 Integrated Solutions, we aim to help companies avoid these types of pitfalls and achieve much safer and more efficient operations – thereby reducing the likelihood of a disaster.
The first blog in the series talks about the absence of a system to quantitatively assess risks and to use that assessment for overall better decision-making.
Pitfall 1 – No requirement to Quantitatively Assess Risks
When qualitative risk assessments are used alone for major accident hazards without the follow-on quantitative risk assessment, the results can suffer from lack of thoroughness in the assessment and understanding of what’s going on. This in turn can cause poor decisions to be made – both doing too much and too little to reduce risk.
Qualitative of semi-quantitative risk assessments are generally descriptions with the application of risk rankings using a matrix of frequency and consequence – often being labeled low, medium or high (in some cases a very high category is used).
Qualitative assessments alone can be “dangerously superficial” as was experienced in the 1988 Piper Alpha offshore disaster that killed 167 people. According to the investigation, Occidental had known about certain risks through a qualitative assessment and based on that assessment, the company did very little to improve safety. Since that disaster, Occidental pulled out of the UK, tougher regulations were put into place, and companies across the industry began to use quantitative risk assessment tools to help better manage risks.
The Benefit of a System that Incorporates Quantitative Risk Assessments
Quantitative risk assessments allow a company to understand the hazards and the risks associated with those hazards in a more scientific and comprehensive manner. This information better informs the decision-makers and supports their reasons for addressing, or not, specific identified risks. Thus, the real benefit here is a thorough understanding of risks and how best to manage those risks.
To successfully incorporate quantitative risk assessments that feed into a systemic process for better decision-making, two components are needed:
- Continual hazard identification. You must have a system that continually identifies hazards and quantifies the risks of those hazards. The facilities and assets, the environment, processes, regulatory compliance, personnel, among other factors are constantly changing, thus, the impact of those changes must be continually assessed and actions must be taken as needed via the decision process.
- Decision process. Identifying hazards and their associated risks means nothing if the information is not used to better manage those hazards and risks. A process should be clearly outlined, complete with definitions of risk acceptance/tolerance -- two criteria that help understand hazards and risks more fully.
These two components bring integrity to your risk management operations. If you decide to act or not act on a specific, identified hazard, that decision will be supported by sound data from a robust process.
Learn More About Avoiding Pitfalls that Could Sacrifice Your Operations
At G2 Integrated Solutions, we are committed to helping you manage your risks through better processes and decision-making to deliver better business results. For more information, contact us today.