It is undeniable that safe operation and process reliability are not only compatible but highly interrelated. Reliable production units rarely have safety incidents, whereas unreliable ones tend to repeatedly experience abnormal operation. To prevent incidents, personnel, procedures, and equipment must be aligned to facilitate rapid identification and response to failures of the control system and protective safeguards. Safe and reliable performance requires minimization of the root causes that lead to abnormal and emergency operation. The challenges to accomplishing this in a timely manner are considerable, but not insurmountable.
This article discusses various challenges to sustaining safe operation of process equipment. Each challenge is introduced using a philosophical saying from a Chinese fortune cookie to remind the reader that the barriers against progress are not new but have existed from many years. In most cases, the solutions are also well known and generally require deployment of robust equipment, proven techniques, and competent resources. © 2009 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Process Saf Prog 2009